Deputy Taylor has amendment No. 1 to section 1. I observe that amendments Nos. 19, 23, 32, 34, 36, 40, 42 and 43 form a composite proposal. I suggest, therefore, that we debate these amendments together, also amendments Nos. 2, 4, 6, 12, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 35, and 37. I am proposing that we discuss amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21 to 43, inclusive, and 45 together as they are all related. I am asking for your approval that we debate them together.
Video Recordings Bill, 1987 [Seanad]: Committee Stage. - SECTION 1.
I recall the last time something like this was done we had some difficulty. If we debate these amendments together can we move individual amendments?
We debate the group and each amendment is moved and decided on when we reach it.
They can be voted on separately.
Would it be possible to have the list?
The Deputy should be facilitated. I would like Deputies to be in possession of the list of amendments to be taken together.
I will give the Deputy a copy.
I am happy that the amendments be taken together.
I am calling Deputy Taylor to move amendment No. 1
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, subsection (1), before the definition of "exempted supply" to insert the following definition:
"child' means a person under the age of 16 years;".
The thrust of this amendment and the related amendments is whether videos should be in two categories only — those that are permitted and those that are banned. We are saying that there should be a classification system of videos permissible to be viewed by adults only and those suitable for children. That is a very reasonable provision. This view was shared by the Select Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism who prepared an excellent report on the control of video nasties in 1986-87. I want to refer to some of the comments on the question of classification made in that committee, and I agree with them. In paragraph 3.6 of the report they said:
It may be argued that the introduction of controls is an unwarranted interference with people's freedom to watch what they like in their own homes. However, the Committee considers that there comes a point when the freedom of individuals must be controlled for the common good and that there is a need to protect the public, particularly young people, for the effects of witnessing scenes such as those portrayed on some of the video nasties available in this country at the present time. The aim of controls is to remove the really objectionable and revolting material from circulation, The Committee considers that the general availability of video nasties has a corrupting influence on, at least, some members of our society. It is to combat this evil influence that some controls are required.
At paragraph 3.7 they made this crucial point:
The Committee recognise another aspect of the problem of video nasties, namely, that legislation of itself cannot provide the complete answer; the primary duty for the protection of children and young persons rests on parents and other adults having a duty towards such persons. It would not be practical for society to try and take on the twenty-four hour a day task of safeguarding the standards of children and young persons. That is the function of parents and guardians. The State has a part to play in reducing the extent to which corrupting influences are available; but, it falls to parents to exercise their responsibility for the welfare of their children within the framework laid down by the State for the benefit of the common good of society.
When we bring in these restrictions on videos we must have a care that we do not go overboard. We pride ourselves in being, to some extent, a liberal society and a distinction has to be drawn between viewing what may be suitable for adults and viewing that may be suitable for children. Many films and many videos are perfectly in order and it would be perfectly proper for adults to view them but they would not be suitable for young persons to view, and in the amendment we define a young person for the purpose of these sections as a person under the age of 16 years. That category that it would be in order for adults to see should not be banned because of the possibility that they might also be seen or viewed at any time by a young person. As the select committee said, it is not the function of or within the power of the State to organise a 24 hour, round the clock guard on young people and what they may view. There is a limit to what legislation can accomplish in this House and there is no point in trying to legislate for something that cannot be achieved. The select committee were right when they said that the primary responsibility for supervising what children watch, what they do and what they view rests on their parents and their guardians. We here in legislation can do only so much. We have to take care that classifications are given so that parents will know whether videos that are on offer are suitable in the eyes of the censor for viewing by their children.
There are different types of classifications that would be possible. In the film industry there are quite a number of classifications. The select committee in their report recommended the international coding system which has a classification of audience suitability, and they recommended that that classification be adopted that there then be provision that any unclassified videos should not be available and that it should be an offence to make them available. The committee said that they consider that the international coding system which classifies audience suitability should be adopted and understand that most videos coming on the Irish market are of American or British origin and already conform to this standard. In the amendments I have proposed I am suggesting simply two classifications, those suitable only for adults and those suitable for children under the age of 16 years. I think that is a reasonable compromise. It would be a big mistake to bulk all videos under the category of suitability or non-suitability irrespective of who the viewing audience would be.
I consider the amendments reasonable and I ask the Minister to consider them.
I would like to refer initially to amendment No. 2 which is to insert in the definition section a provision for a limited supply certificate, which means a certificate granted by the official censor under this Bill containing conditions, restrictions or directions as to the persons or class of persons to whom the video work to which the certificate relates may be supplied or by whom it may be viewed. This amendment is on the broad lines of what Deputy Taylor has been talking about. I know this matter was pushed in the Seanad and it got nowhere, but the Minister should respect the fact that the committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism dealt with this issue and recommended classification and, so far as I know, all parties in Opposition are recommending classification.
That is not true.
There seems to be some form of stubbornness on the part of the Government not to move.
There is not a stubbornness, there is a reality.
I would like to pose a few things to the Minister. The Bill refers to the fact that a supply certificate will automatically be given where a certificate has been granted for cinema viewing. Suppose the Film Censor is asked to look at a film and grants permission for viewing subject to certain conditions, say, that people over the age of 18 only would be allowed into the cinema during the time the film was being shown. The same film is supplied on video and the only option the same censor would have at that stage would be to grant a certificate with no restrictions despite the fact that he had already imposed restrictions in relation to the film. This makes a bit of a joke of the whole thing. I, like Deputy Taylor, do not go along with the fact that we as legislators have to go into people's homes and decide how they are going to control their children. We can do certain things and issue certain guidelines but after that we have to depend on the ability of individuals to look after their own lives and their own homes and accept their responsibility as parents. However, I believe it is a good idea that some indication is given by the Film Censor, and not on a voluntary basis as suggested by the Irish Videogram Association who apparently are opposing this idea of classification, much to my surprise. I would prefer if the Film Censor was to give some indication or direction as to who should or should not view a video. If after that it gets into the hands of children at home there is not much we can do about it, but at least the parents will have been put on notice. If you have no classification then, depending on the view of the censor, videos which would be suitable for 18 or 19 year olds or adults would not be approved because a censor would have no option but to say that in his opinion it would be unsuitable for viewing, bearing in mind that young people might be seeing it. Adults can look at certain things which would not have the same effect on them as such viewing might have on young children.
If we are talking about incitement and the causes of violence surely there must be a difference between the effect a video has on a 15 year old in that area and the effect it would have on an adult of 40 or 50 years of age. There is no comparison in these areas as to the effect these videos can have on individuals. Therefore, are we to ban videos that would be very suitable for adult viewing but because the censor fears they are going to be watched by young children he might be hesitant as to whether he should grant a supply certificate? That will depend totally on the censor in question, and I think we are asking the censor to carry out an unfair function. We should accept an amendment that will allow the censor to grant a limited supply certificate and if he wishes to put on a recommendation that X video is suitable for whatever age group upwards, let him have that discretion. If he does not, so be it, but at least let us have a provision in the Bill where he can do that and not just give him this black and white provision where he can do nothing about it. No argument I have seen, read or heard will convince me that there is logic in affording him the opportunity of saying only "yes" or "no". If he says "yes" he might wish to do so subject to certain conditions and he should have that discretion. The minimum this Bill should provide for a censor would be that facility to grant a limited supply certificate.
Therefore, I am asking my colleagues to accept and support this amendment and to support the principle behind it. It is not a question of trying to get an amendment passed for the sake of doing so. There is an issue here. All the arguments I have heard are in favour of having that discretion for the censor as against the sort of "no, I do not agree with it" argument which does not really convince me that there is any logic to not providing this facility. Therefore, I am asking the Minister to consider accepting this amendment for the good of the legislation. In fairness to him he has gone a fair bit in the Seanad listening to various arguments and he was prepared to accept reasonable amendments.
One does not know how a Bill of this nature is going to work until it is actually in operation. If it does not work we can always change it and if it does work so be it. What we are trying to do is adopt a reasonable approach to the supply of video recordings to the public and avoid video nasties in particular getting into the hands of young people. That is basically what this legislation is about. We can do that by giving the censor some discretion. I have not heard any argument that will convince me that it is better just to have a black and white situation rather than allowing the censor some discretion. I maintain that giving the censor some discretion is in the best interests of the legislation that we are trying to pass through this House today. I again ask the Minister to seriously consider accepting this amendment.
The amendments in my name are amendments Nos. 3, 4, 6,13 and 14.
Strictly speaking, the formal proposal of your amendments need not necessarily take place until we actually come to them. We are discussing your amendments, Deputy Barrett's and others with Deputy Taylor's amendment No. 1. You can certainly speak to your amendments now.
All these amendments are to do with the classification of videos. Perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse. It would have been more appropriate to discuss section 3 first on the question of what effect videos have or have not got on the viewer. In any event, we are not discussing the question of classification and whether or not the censor should have the right to classify videos in a particular way.
As the Bill stands the censor may only accept or reject a video on the basis of whether there is any material in it which he regards as obscene or likely to incite violence. That is something of a blunt instrument. As it stands, the censor does have the right to classify films and that has worked reasonably well in the past ten to 12 years. My understanding is that the censor no longer cuts films but does obviously reject some films because of their gross nature, and he classifies films for over 18s, over 16s, over 15s, for general viewing, with parental guidance, etc. It would seem only reasonable that the same approach should be adopted with videos. Under the Bill as it stands the censor will have to give a general certificate to a video for which he has already given a certificate for a film. The film may in fact be restricted; it may have an over 18s certificate but because of the way this Bill is framed the video of that film would have to be made available automatically in video shops without any restrictions whatsoever on who may come into the shop to rent or buy them — it could be a child of ten or an adult of whatever age. That undermines the whole thrust of the Bill.
In regard to the film "The Temptation of Christ", it has been brought to my attention since Second Stage that I had done the censor an injustice by suggesting that he had cut the film. In fact he had not. He had placed a couple of restrictions on it. One was that it should only be viewed by over 18s; another was that it should carry a statement before the film was shown that it was not in line with the strict interpretation of the Bible; the third one was that no one should be allowed to enter the cinema to see the film once the film had started. The censor obviously had good reasons for doing that. I do not necessarily agree with an over-18 audience not being allowed into the cinema once the film had started. In any event, under this Bill any video which is presented to the censor, the film of which has been certified by the censor, must automatically get a general certificate and will be available to one and all without any restrictions whatsoever. There is an anomaly in the Bill with regard to what it is intended to achieve.
The other effect this Bill may have if it is passed as it stands is that we may end up by getting passed only videos which are suitable for children with no such thing as an adult film available on video. There may be a problem there because with these new powers the censor may well have it in the back of his mind when he is viewing the film that he might be presented with a video of this film in the future and, if so, does he believe that this film should be on general release to all. This may, in fact, increase the constraints on the censor and make him more conservative and reluctant to pass films for release for viewing by adults. So we could have a regression in relation to censorship here because of the way this Bill is framed.
There are arguments against classification too. One is that it is impossible to prevent an under age person viewing a video. That is true. If it is in the home it is, presumably, up to the parents to control what the child is viewing; but we have already on the Statute Book legislation which restricts children from buying a range of things which are on sale. We do not allow the sale of alcohol to persons under a certain age from offlicences or from pubs. We do not allow the sale of drink to persons under a certain age in pubs. We do not allow the sale of condoms to persons under a certain age. However, that legislation does not prevent children from using these things; it does not prevent adults from buying them on their behalf and handing them over. Yet this House, in all solemnity, decided that it was important enough to restrict sale of these items to children. If we are serious about this Bill it is only reasonable to argue that a video shop should be obliged not to rent or sell to children under a certain age videos that have been classified by the censor as suitable for viewing only by people over a certain age. The video shop should be obliged to abide by the law in that regard.
The second argument is one of cost. The Minister indicated in the course of his Second Stage speech that it costs in the region of £1 million to classify videos in Britain. It is a valid point for the video industry to put forward that they do not want to have an additional cost placed on them but our concern must be whether adult videos should be generally available having been passed by the censor and whether we believe it is important to restrict access to adult videos by children. If that is our firm belief-the question of cost should not be the overriding factor. In the course of his contribution the Minister said he was not stubborn in regard to this issue and I was glad to hear that. The case for classification is overwhelming. Commonsense arguments in favour of it have been put forward and the Minister should take them on board. The issue was debated at length in the Seanad and I am sure the Minister heard these arguments there but I hope that on this occasion he takes them on board.
In addressing this issue of classification it is worth looking at the purpose of the Bill which, it seems to me, from the beginning was one which insisted on taking out of circulation videos which grossly offended or incited people to violence or crime. If that is the purpose of the Bill, it is very black and white and does not leave much room for manoeuvre. It amounts to wanting to take the videos out of circulation. If the Bill is amended in the way suggested by various parties I do not think it will be possible to enforce its provisions. The purpose of the Bill is quite different from the thinking behind the amendments. I would be afraid that the law would be brought into disrepute because the provisions of the Bill would not be enforceable.
On Second Stage I made a number of points in regard to the difficulty of enforcing the provisions. One must look at the difference between the medium of film as shown in the cinema and the medium of videos as shown on a video machine, normally in the home. The censor has the right to impose restrictions as to who may view a film in a cinema and the kernel of the argument is that those restrictions can be adhered to. It is possible to bring a person to court if those restrictions are not adhered to. A basic element of legislation is that its provisions be enforceable. I would be afraid that if we included provisions suggested by Deputies Barrett, De Rossa or Taylor we would be faced with the problem of enforcing them. As a result other laws would be brought into disrepute.
Deputy Taylor suggested that if we do not have classification we will be making a joke of the legislation but I am afraid that if we have classification that is not enforceable all the provisions of the Bill will be a joke. The Government have a role in upholding moral standards to the extent that they are consented to by the majority but it must be recognised that private bodies have a role to play. The least amount of government we can have involved the better. There are other parties involved in this, parents and responsible guardians and citizens and the traders and importers. They are directly involved in the maintenance of proper standards. A reasonable guide to videos is in existence and has been produced by the Irish Videogram Association. This extensive guide to the type of videos that are available for hire is displayed in video shops.
One must bear in mind that after the passage of the Bill the video industry may change considerably. There will be a greater degree of scrutiny of the industry, there will be the licensing of outlets, the role of the censor and a general public awareness that there is a law on the Statute Book that can be used to stamp out the appalling grossness in some videos. I do not have any objection in principle to the censor having a right to classify videos but I have an objection to us obliging the censor to do something that cannot be enforced. Deputy De Rossa referred to the film, "The Last Temptation of Christ", and the restrictions placed by the censor on that film. That makes the point I was referring to, that the censor could impose restrictions, that he could call for the restriction of the showing of a film to over 18s such as that people should be seated before the film starts and that notices should be displayed outside the cinema. The censor may impose conditions relating to the size of the notice that must be displayed. I do not think the censor can lay down such restrictions in relation to videos. It would not be possible to enforce them.
I agree with the classification of videos but I do not think it will be possible for the censor to impose restrictions that will be effective and to follow that up with the moral force that should be behind all legislation. Self imposed guidance is something we should strive for. I accept that there is an apparent anomaly in that films that have age restrictions placed on them when shown in cinemas are generally available in video shops. Rather than insisting on excessive control, we should allow a period to elapse to see if the Irish Videogram Association police the business, as they say they do. We would learn if people have a greater awareness of their rights and what can be done about videos. If we discover that there is no control of video outlets we can amend the legislation and give the censor the right, and a way of following through on it, to impose restrictions.
Listening to the argument which was very well put by the previous speaker and, indeed, by the Minister, I am not fully convinced that we are doing the right thing by legislating for the control and supply of video material without introducing an element of classification. The anomaly that will exist, if the legislation is not amended, can be underlined by the curious scenario that will allow somebody to be turned away from a cinema and, perhaps, 50 yards away to be in a position to purchase or hire the particular film to which they were denied access to five minutes before. That must be the overriding argument.
We are talking about access to material, access to video nasties, access to unsuitable material as well as material of an objectionable nature. Deputy Colley felt that by introducing a system of classification we were broadening the legislation and she defined, too narrowly in my view, what this legislation is all about. Even a reading of the title gives an indication that there is more to it than to outlaw objectionable material, it is to control the regulation of the supply of video material.
That is the whole point.
The whole point of the censor's role in the celluoid industry can be underlined by the classification system we have within the cinema. I fail to see why, side by side, we can have exactly the same material available under general classification. Let us face it, we will have a situation where film material in the form of video is either on the shelf or off the shelf — it is black and white, it is either in the shop or it is not in it. We have to accept the fact that there is viewing material suitable for different age groups. The Minister will have to accept that. There is material that is suitable for adults and there is material that is suitable for children, irrespective of how we feel.
Under this legislation there will be absolutely no control over access in a video shop. The argument in favour of classification can be further exemplified by the various television announcements we have when a film comes on for viewing on television; if it is not suitable for children there is an announcement to that effect. That is the type of thing we are talking about in the legislation, that there should be a system of classification and a warning notice and there should be an onus upon the retailer to ensure that this material does not fall into hands for which it is not suitable. The area of control will be difficult and that is the problem the Minister has. I do not think we should cop out and say that it is going to be difficult to police and that it will be too difficult to control. I do not feel that we should take that view. We should try to regulate it by means of putting an onus on the retailer to have all his material classified in one form or another.
Everybody has access to video machines. It is not as if a video machine will be locked away in a house and not under the direct control of a parent. Anybody who wants to see any type of material, once it is available in the shop, can do so with little or no restriction. That should be borne in mind. That is a further argument in favour of some form of classification. We are really making something of a joke — which is the phrase which was coined earlier by two previous speakers — of the existing role of the censor as far as the film industry is concerned if we are directing that there be classification for films on the big screen and yet no classification when it comes to video material. That must be the fundamental aspect of it. I hope, now that we are legislating for control and supply, that we see fit to have a classification system to ensure, in so far as we can, that objectionable material does not get into the hands of those for whom it is not suitable.
I want to make a point before the Minister makes his decision. I have a funny feeling that he is going to trot out the official line which he did in the Seanad. I am afraid we will have some problems with this Bill if that is the case. As Deputy Flanagan has said and, with respect to Deputy Colley, she is missing the point. We are talking here about the supply of videos. We are not saying, and no legislation can say, that so-and-so cannot see this or so-and-so should not see that. We are talking about people who are in business, like off-licence owners, who would be told that they cannot supply or sell to somebody under a certain age. That is what we should be talking about here. If after that, somebody who is 30 years old goes in, as Deputy De Rossa said, and buys alcohol, goes down the road and into his house and opens the bottle and gives a large Jameson to his 16 year old son, we cannot do anything about that. We never tried to do anything about it either but what we did say was that if a 16-year old son went in to the off-licence we would not allow the owner to sell him the Jameson. What we are saying here is that there should be control over the supply of particular videos if the censor so decides. Without that can the Minister tell me how a censor is going to make his decision? Section 3 (1) of the Bill states that:
The Official Censor shall, on application to him in relation to a video work, grant ... a certificate ... unless he is of opinion that the work is unfit for viewing because——
(a) the viewing of it——
(1) would be likely to cause persons to commit crimes, whether by inciting or encouraging them to do so or by indicating or suggesting ways of doing so or of avoiding detection,
It could be interpreted from that, that a good thriller, which we all enjoy sitting down and watching, could be banned by the censor if in his opinion it is going to indicate or suggest ways of doing something or of avoiding detection. A good thriller that you can see every evening of the week on your television screen or that you can see in the cinema could be banned, if the censor was scrupulous and said to himself: "This could incite crime if a 15 or 16 year old was to see it. I may not be doing my job in accordance with the Act so I cannot grant a certificate in that instance." If the man has discretion he will say that if a 25-year old was to see that it is not likely to incite him to commit crime, or it will not really have an effect on whether it suggests ways of committing a crime or how to avoid detection. The old film, "The Great Train Robbery", would be banned in accordance with this Bill.
No, it would not. That is total nonsence.
Of course it would. That is what the wording of the Bill is saying. I will give the Minister an opportunity to reply in a minute. Surely the censor should have some say when he looks at it. It would be different if a 25-year old, a 40-year old or a 50-year old saw this as against a 15 or a 16 year old. Surely he should have some discretion and we should not tie his hands. He should be able to say: "It is my recommendation that this video should not be shown to people, or supplied to people under the age of 16 or 18" or whatever he so decides. I cannot see how that can bring our law into disrepute. If we were to use Deputy Colley's argument, with respect, and I am sure the line which the Minister will trot out, you could forget about controlling the sale or the supply of alcohol because the same arguments would apply. Therefore, there is more behind this than meets the eye.
If this classification was inserted into this legislation it would make life a little more difficult for people in the business. We are legislators and we have to produce legislation that makes sense and if in the course of doing so we cause people some inconvenience I am sorry if that is the case. We passed an Intoxicating Liquor Bill recently which caused certain problems for people and they will have to adhere to the law as passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. We have to say we want legislation that makes sense. This legislation, in my opinion, does not make sense. The censor will be asked to do a job which will be extremely unfair to him because he will not know which way to turn. He will not know whether "The Great Train Robbery" should get through because of the wording of section 3, or say: "I think this is suitable for adults but it is not suitable for children". Therefore, the handiest way out, depending on the censor, might be that he would not grant the certificate. On the other hand, we might have a censor who will take a different approach, who might say that it is all right and who will grant certificates to most films because he can read into the legislation.
If my wording is not suitable, if Deputy De Rossa's wording is not suitable or if the Minister has some objections to what Deputy Taylor is suggesting, I am prepared, as I am sure my colleagues would also be prepared once the Minister accepts the principle, to wait until Report Stage if the Minister would prefer to come back with some other wording. We can then discuss and debate it. If the Minister does not accept the principle I suppose, as you would say yourself, Sir, "the only thing you can do is to use the Dáil to voice your opinion." That is what we will do and we will call a vote on this issue. It would be a shame if we had to vote on an issue like this. There is a principle involved here and if the Minister does not accept the principle I will certainly call a vote on the issue because I believe that what we are trying to do here is effectively to prevent young people from watching video nasties and people from making money out of encouraging people to commit crime through the extreme violence that we see. We want to do something about this but at the end of the day we need to have reasonable legislation in place to enable us to do so.
For the sake of the record I would like to say that we are starting the Committee Stage debate and even before I reply to the debate on a group of amendments I am being given out to by Deputy Barrett who argues that I might trot out all the usual arguments including that there is something more behind this than meets the eye and that he will be denied the opportunity of viewing any good thriller such as "The Great Train Robbery" which we all enjoyed and which I am sure we will continue to enjoy because it is a film we could look at on many an occasion. Even before I get the chance to make my case he is threatening me with war by way of a vote. In fairness to him, recognising that that is his approach, he prefaced his remarks by saying that he hoped that I would not be stubborn. He cannot have it both ways. Let me say very simply——
I am being told off.
——that the basic purpose of this legislation is to prevent the availability of pornographic films and video nasties. If we forget this and broaden out the argument into areas which this legislation is not meant to cover, we will get into very serious problems. As Deputy Barrett said, and I am sure he means it, he wants, as much as everyone else who is here wants, legislation which makes sense and which can be enforced.
There are a number of amendments down about the system of classifying works in such a way as to limit their supply by reference to the age of the purchaser or the renter. Before dealing with them I intend first of all to set out some general background to the Bill and then speak about classification per se. When we were considering this area, there was an urgent need as has been said by everybody who has participated in the debate in this House and in the debate in the other House, for this type of legislation, and there were a number of basic questions which had to be dealt with in the drafting of the Bill. A decision had to be made whether video works should be controlled by vetting them before they were released commercially on to the market as distinct from bringing a prosecution, after their release on to the market, in respect of any works considered obscene. That is the kind of film we are talking about, not films such as “The Great Train Robbery” and I think Deputy Barrett should remember this. What we are talking about are obscene works or works which are otherwise unacceptable. Having considered this area, the decision was to vet the works before they were released on to the market.
The Minister should read section 3.
It refers to more than obscene works.
Let me try to make my side of the argument. I have listened very attentively to everything that has been said by Deputies on the other side of the House. The question then arose as to who should do the vetting. Should it be the Film Censor or for that matter should it be a board? The decision was that it should be the Film Censor. There was a question then whether the outlets should be licensed. As Deputies are aware, the original Bill did not contain any provision for the licensing of outlets. However, after a very thorough discussion on this point in the other House I decided to amend the Bill to provide for the licensing of outlets.
The remaining basic question was whether there should be a classification system for video works passed as being fit for supply. I gave very careful and deep consideration to this question in the same manner as I gave careful consideration to the other questions I have mentioned. The basic reason for having a classification system is to prevent people of a certain age from viewing video works. That is the basic reason for having such a system. A classification system would prevent works classified for people over a certain age from being supplied to people under that age. However it would not or could not prevent children under the specified age from viewing them as they could be obtained by people over the age and then shown to those under the age or they could be left in houses where children could view them.
The same as alcohol.
I will talk about a due comparison of alcohol and brandy with video films in a few moments because I do not think that is a good argument. As I am sure Deputy Barrett knows in his heart and soul, it is not a comparison which will stand up. The fundamental point is that the State cannot control the age of people viewing a video work once it is supplied. There is no way that the State, as Deputy Colley has said, will want to be involved in areas it should keep well out of and leave very well alone.
The argument has been made that as there is a classification system for cinema films there should be a similar classification system for video works. However, cinema films and video works are not comparable in relation to this question of classification. Cinema films are shown in a controlled environment and if a film is rated as being suitable only for those over 18 years of age, then it is possible for the cinema management to prevent young people under that age from entering the cinema and viewing it. It may be argued that it is difficult to decide on the age of certain people entering the cinema but the reality is that in the vast majority of cases the cinema management would know by looking at people whether they were under the age specified or not.
Cinema management have a clear responsibility in this area and it is possible for them to exercise that responsibility, but the position in regard to video works is not the same. A shopkeeper letting out a video work would have no control whatsoever over who would see it; cinema management have. Even though the person to whom he supplies the film is 19 or 20 years of age this is no guarantee that a work which is classified for viewing, for example, by people over the age of 16 only will not be shown to people under that age. That blows aside totally the comparison which has been made between cinema films and video films.
The point was made by a number of Deputies today and during Second Stage that we have a responsibility to frame realistic legislation. That is what we have to try to do and I am satisfied that this is a case in point. To provide for a classification system would simply not achieve the objective for which classification is intended. It would not ensure that people below the stipulated age would not see the work for the reasons I have already stated. Deputy Colley was right when she said that the difficulties which would arise for the Garda in the enforcement of the classification system are matters which we must consider as well. This Bill, as it is now framed, will result in a considerable amount of additional work for the Garda and I am satisfied that the Garda have been helped in every possible way in the framing of the Bill in an effort to enable them to carry out their work. The registers of video works and licence holders are documents which will help them do this. Similarly the need to have licences displayed by those who operate video outlets will be of assistance to the Garda. To ask the Garda to control outlets by reference to the age of those renting or buying video films would be a fruitless task. It would be very difficult to bring charges, and any cases of alleged offences, and added to the prosecutions, even if successful, would not attain the objective of preventing people below the stipulated ages from viewing the video works in question. I am satisfied that this would be a serious waste of very scarce Garda time.
I should also mention — and Deputy De Rossa anticipated one of my arguments in this area — the cost involved in a classification system. A system of classification would make the vetting of video works more expensive. Of course, as I have already said this would not be an additional expense on the taxpayer because the cost of the system would be covered in full by the fees which would be charged under the Bill. However, there would be considerable extra expense involved which would presumably be passed on to the consumer. The position in the United Kingdom is that their system of censorship of cinema films and video works cost approximately £1.3 million last year and 55 people were employed. I am advised that our costs are estimated to be £300,000 with 12 people employed.
I have been very conscious at all times in the framing of this Bill that it will involve some extra expense for the trade and the consumer but I have endeavoured to keep the extra costs to the minimum necessary. There will have to be fees for the viewing of video works by the film censor and his staff, for the labels which will have to be affixed to video cassettes and for the work involved in implementing the system of licensing of suppliers. All of these expenses are necessary because they arise from procedures which are fundamental to the success of the scheme set out in the Bill. Extra expense due to classification would be an unnecessary expense as classification is not required for the success of the scheme set out in the Bill. A further point in that classification could delay the finalisation of arrangements for all videos subject to the controls of the Bill. Examining all video works already on the market and those coming on the market would be a much lengthier process if the censor had to assign a classification to all the works rather than make a decision whether it should be authorised for supply.
There is one other point about classification systems which I should mention — it gives a purchaser or renter of a video information about the age group for which the work is suitable. This information would, of course, be useful to parents when choosing video works to be viewed by their children. The Irish Videogram Association have taken an initiative in this respect and they have drawn the attention of the public to the fact that there is a classification mark on video works already available in outlets. This is, of course, the classification system which is operating in the United Kingdom and it informs a purchaser or renter whether a film is suitable for viewing by anybody, whether parental guidance is needed in certain circumstances or whether the work should not be seen by children below a certain age.
As I have already said very careful consideration has been given to the question of classification. The advantages and disadvantages have been weighed in a very thorough manner and I am satisfied that on balance the classification system should not be built into the Bill as it would not achieve the objective for which such a system is intended — that is, the prevention of the viewing of certain video works by people below a certain age. On this ground I am satisfied that the right course is not to provide a classification system.
There appears to be a misunderstanding about another point in that arguments have been offered more than once that films marked for viewing over 18 will not be available in video shops. That is not so. Any cinema film — and I want this to be understood — which has a certificate for showing in a cinema must be given a supply certificate as a video work. There is no question of Deputy Barrett being denied the pleasure——
It even makes a greater joke of the Bill.
——of watching "The Great Train Robbery". It is not in the interests of what we are trying to do to prevent that. Deputy Flanagan makes the point that if somebody is turned away from a cinema he can go to a video shop and get a video. Let me say to Deputy Flanagan that even with classification his big brother could get it for him and we could do nothing about it.
Is the Minister saying that any film which is passed for adult viewing only will automatically have a general video release?
Yes, any cinema film which has a certificate for showing in a cinema must be given — and it is not just "will be" but "must be"— a supply certificate as a video work. That is provided for in section 3 (2).
Is that not ludicrous?
Of course it is ludicrous.
No, it is not ludicrous. The Deputies are forgetting the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is clearly spelled out — to prevent the availability of pornographic films and video nasties. That is what we are trying to do.
The Minister should regulate the supply.
The Deputies cannot accuse me on one hand——
On a point of order, the Minister should read section 3. That is not what the Bill says.
Deputies cannot argue that films are going to be denied because they might have a classification tag which says that people under 16 or 18 years are not to view them, when I say that any film with a certificate which has been given for cinema purposes will be available for video purposes also. This brings me to a point made by Deputy Colley, that there has to be self-imposed guidance and parental involvement in the type of films which children are going to view. We do not want that job. We cannot do it and the Garda cannot do it. None of us here would want the Garda to have to do that job. They have more than enough to do in what they are supposed to be doing.
It is the Film Censor we are talking about.
With regard to the Film Censor, Deputy Barrett tried to take away from the case I was going to make even before I had tried to make it. He said he would be denied the pleasure of seeing a good thriller film. I have great faith in our Film Censor. I think he is a very sensible and mature person.
I am only going in accordance with section 3 of the Bill.
The argument made by Deputy Barrett in that instance does not stand up any more than the argument he made — and I will deal with it because he brought it up by way of interruption — in relation to Jameson or brandy being available on shelves. Let me say to Deputy Barrett — and I am sure he is not serious but is just being slightly mischievous this morning——
I am not being mischievous.
——that there is no way one can compare Jameson and brandy with pornographic videos and their effects. There is no comparison.
It is a very fair comparison.
We are talking about availability.
There cannot in any reasonable way be a comparison between the availability of Jameson and brandy and video nasties and pornographic films.
The Minister is twisting the argument. He should be reasonable.
Will the Deputy please let me make my case? I did not interrupt Deputy Barrett even when he made wild accusations against me for which he is probably prepared to apologise right now. If he is not, he should be. Let me make my case which I am giving as I see it. In fairness to those whose job it is to advise me, the Deputy should not make a side swipe at them that the Minister will trot out the official line. We must be careful about our treatment of people who are not in a position to stand up and defend themselves. As Deputy Barrett says, there is not anything more in this than meets the eye.
You mean the official ministerial line?
I am sure — I hope — that the Deputy will enjoy the pleasures of ministerial office and then he will see the situation as I see it. This House has always had a tradition of a great appreciation of the public servants in the different Departments whose job it is to advise in a very professional way on the different issues on which Ministers need advice.
Does the Minister find that it is a joy and a pleasure?
Sometimes I do, but not always.
Sometimes there is an X rating.
Would the Minister get that struck off the record?
We cannot depart from what we are trying to do, which is to prohibit the availability of pornographic nasty films that everybody recognises are a total insult to women and should not be available to anybody. That is all that we are trying to do. I believe that if we try to make it wider than we are doing, we will have legislation on our hands which will not be enforceable. I can see the arguments in regard to classification. There is no way in which I can be convinced — and I have had discussions with all those involved — that we could ever enforce it. I do not think anybody would want to have legislation that cannot be enforced.
This is an area where there is common ground between us on many fronts. We all wish to achieve the same end; I accept that. The difficulty lies in how we do it. That is the question. This is a new development for which there is no precedent in this country. We have looked at this and other areas in the legislation of other countries and have tried to learn from their mistakes. It is likely that there will be a need to amend this legislation as we move along and learn from its operation. I accept that. It would be very unwise if I did not. I would hope that it would be my very pleasant responsibility to return, say, in 12 months or two years and say that we should have a look at the legislation, having regard to the circumstances that we feel must be catered for. I would be prepared to do that and I would hope that a predecessor would also. That is what it is all about.
Deputy Gay Mitchell has been seeking a hearing for some time.
I was vice-chairman in the last Dáil of the Select Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism which presented a report on the control of video nasties. The present Minister for Social Welfare was the chairman. As chairman of that committee, I do not think he would share all the views which the Minister has just now put forward.
We must be careful not to become too censorious. The Minister is wrong in saying that we must protect against pornography and video nasties because they offend women. It should be because they offend against dignity, whether it be woman's or man's.
That was all said on Second Reading.
That is not what the Minister said a moment ago. I wanted to put my view on the record. The Minister may have faith in the censor, but going back to the thirties and forties, the Government of the day had every faith in the censor of that time, but some ridiculous decisions were taken. People who are adult should be able to make judgments for themselves. The censor should be involved only in controlling what this House in legislation decides he is in a position to control. We should not suggest that people are not able to make decisions for themselves.
I am totally in agreement with the general thrust of this Bill but not enough emphasis is being put on the violence available in films and videos. Since the report on the control of video nasties was published by the Select Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism, we have had the advent of satellite TV. Many of the matters which the Minister is purporting to control from public viewing in this Bill will be beamed into the homes of many Irish families and available to young children. The Bill comes a little late and what the Minister should be considering, in consultation with his colleagues in the European Community, is what sort of Europewide control should be adapted.
In the opening section giving the purpose of the Bill, there is a certain weakness to which I shall return later. This is in connection with what is described as a business and what is described as a premises. There is an essential weakness in the Bill because the Minister did not take in account sections 9.3, 9.4, 9.5 and 9.6 of the select committee's report in which they advocated the licensing of premises which would be subject to the control of local authorities and subject to annual renewal. I shall return to that point later. Perhaps the Minister and his officials would give some thought to involving local councillors in the control of the outlets which hire video nasties or pornographic material which is offensive, so that when licences come up annually for renewal via the local authorities, at least people will be in a position to make representations to their local elected councillor and somebody will have an opportunity to tell a person that it is known that he is breaking the law but that this cannot be pinned on him and that unless he gives an undertaking that he will desist from providing these videos which the law has prohibited and will not continue to provide them from under the counter his premises will not be licensed or his licence will not be renewed. That power should be with local elected councillors. They should have the authority to review annually the licensing of such premises.
I shall quote very briefly from the select committee's report as follows:
Licensing of retail outlets
9.3 The Committee recommends that legislation in relation to video recordings should provide that the owners of all retail outlets be licensed. The holding of a valid licence should be a requirement for continuing to operate in the business.
9.4 The Committee was advised that there is a relationship between the non-legitimate video trade and the availability of video nasties and hardcore pornographic videos. A licensing system would be a means of bringing some control into the industry and would make it possible to enforce realistic controls on the availability of video nasties.
9.5 On the question as to who should be the licensing authority, the Committee recommends that this role be allocated to the local authorities; that it should be a reserved function of the councillors, and that there should be provision for an appeal to the Courts against a refusal of a licence. A licence should attach to the owner of the retail outlet and should be renewable every year. However, in the event of a second conviction for an offence under the legislation, the licence should be revoked.
9.6 In addition to the powers available to the Gardaí, the local authority should be empowered to take proceedings against any licence holder who is alleged to have breached any provision of the legislation or against any unlicensed person offering video recordings for hire or sale.
I will return to that subject at a later stage. I give notice at this stage on the purpose of the Bill. I should like the Minister and his colleagues to give some thought to this. It is an essential weakness and if the owner continues to provide under the counter videos of a nasty, violent or pornographic type not permitted by the legislation, there should be some way of getting at him. It is not always possible in law to prove cases against these operators so local resident's associations should be allowed to make representations to councillors. If a person is treated unfairly by not having a licence renewed then, as the report of the select committee suggests, he would have the right of appeal to the court.
I want to go back to the point the Minister made in reply to our request for a limited supply certificate. The Minister's argument suggests that the next step — if the Bill is to make any sense — is to abandon film censorship. There is no point in having film censorship if there is no discretion in relation to videos. The Film Censor may award an X certificate to a film which means it is only suitable to those of 18 years and older but it will not make much difference if the same film is kept in a video library. Once a film is allowed in there are no restrictions on video.
The Minister said that my remarks about "The Great Train Robbery" were exaggerated and that videos of that nature could be banned. However, section 3 clearly states that a certificate will be granted unless the censor is of the opinion that the work is unfit for viewing because the viewing of it would be likely to cause persons to commit crimes whether by inciting or encouraging them to do so or by indicating or suggesting ways of doing so or avoiding detection. If "The Great Train Robbery" is screened showing how people commit a robbery and ways and means of avoiding detection then, according to section 3, the Film Censor cannot grant a supply certificate. Perhaps the Film Censor will say that it is suitable for people of 18 years or over or — like "The Last Temptation of Christ"— you must see the film from the beginning and that it also is only suitable for those of 18 years of age and over. However, a 15 year old can buy or hire a video of the film and there is nothing in the legislation to prevent it. If we want legislation that becomes a total and utter joke, then have it without classification. All the arguments against classification certainly do not outweigh those in favour of it. Of course you can argue that it will be difficult to pursue people breaking the law by showing these films but we are talking about those who supply them and who are looking for a licence. We are not talking about whether I allow my 15 year old child to see a video which the Film Censor recommended should be shown to those of 18 years of age and upwards. I do not want to legislate for what people do in their own homes. I said earlier — and I will repeat it — if I give a glass of Jameson to my 15 year old the law of the land will not interfere with me. The law says that the person selling alcohol should not sell it to a 15 year old. The same thing applies to a video, it should not be sold to a 15 year old if it is meant for an 18 year old. There is no point in saying that you cannot enforce a law of this kind because you cannot provide for a 15 year old not consuming alcohol in the home. Of course the parents must exercise control but the Film Censor should have the power to supply limited certificate to certain films. If that was the case a parent could examine the video a child had brought back from a library and ensure that it was suitable.
The Minister is telling us that we should follow Britain's example and that the video association should become the film censor. On more than one occasion I have heard Deputy Kelly complaining that we follow Britain's example. Why do we have to follow them? Can we not have a film censor who makes up his own mind? Surely the association can apply their own labels? The Minister said that the video association will do their own thing, that may be so but they are not the Film Censor. If I did not put down this amendment I could not defend the legislation at a party or public meeting if someone asked me why unsuitable films were available in video libraries. How could I answer anyone who makes a reasonable argument of that kind? I could not and I would make a fool out of myself if I tried to do so. We are asking the Film Censor to make a black and white decision without giving him any discretion as to whether he should impose classification. I cannot see how it will weaken the legislation if we give the Film Censor power to grant a limited certificate, if he so wishes. I have always argued that you can make your views known about certain films but that when the censor makes his decision we should accept it. His hands should not be tied behind his back and the Minister has not convinced me by his arguments in this regard.
I should like to assure the Minister that we are all trying to be helpful on this issue and that we are not making difficulties. However, it is part of our task to ensure that we get a sensible, logical and consistent system of legislation on the subject of censorship generally. I understand what the Minister is trying to do but the net effect is to bring in one set of censorship tests for the cinema and a separate set for videos. You just cannot do that, it is a nice idea but it makes no sense. There is no logic in it.
I would ask the Minister what is the point in banning films for under 18 year olds while it is perfectly in order for a ten year old to get the film on video? That would bring the legal system into disrepute. The Minister is trying to squeeze in a separate system for videos and films but the two will have to go hand in hand. If there was a system of vetting films under which they are either passed or not passed, we could do the same with regard to videos. I would not approve of that arrangement but if films were either allowed or banned we could say that video films may also be allowed or banned on a similar basis. That cannot be done because it makes no sense. It is totally illogical. We cannot have a legal system that provides one set of tests for videos and another set of tests for films.
From a cinema proprietor's point of view he would have to do his best to exclude under 18 year olds from seeing a film in the sure knowledge that next door there is a video library where a 12 year old can obtain and see the same film. That cannot be right. The Minister is creating that kind of situation once he decides that there will be no classification arrangements for videos. We want to be helpful and to point this out to the Minister. It is just not tenable.
We should also think of the Film Censor and what his position will be. He will be put in an impossible position in making decisions on these films. He will have no leeway at all. Films will be either banned for everybody or banned for no-one. That makes no sense, if, out of every 100 films, 10 per cent at the top end ought to be banned for everybody, 10 per cent at the lower end ought to be on view for everybody and in between are films that are perfectly appropriate for adults and inappropriate for young people, what is the censor supposed to do in that kind of situation? The objective of the Bill is that films of a certain category must not be allowed to be viewed by young people, which means that they have to be banned. That is totally wrong because adults are entitled to see those films and it is perfectly in order for them to do so. It is unduly oppressive on adults to be banned from seeing these films.
The whole question of censorship is something we have to face up to. In an ideal world there would not be any censorship but we all have to face the fact that that situation does not exist. There has to be censorship of some things just as there has to be controls on the sales and licensing of drink and so on. In a modern liberal democracy our objective should be a minimalist approach. The level of censorship that we bring in should be at the lower end of the scale. We should provide the absolute minimum censorship. There is a broad view that the Minister's Bill goes much too far down the censorship road and that it is taking a far too extreme position.
The chairperson of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties put it very strongly — maybe too strongly — when he described the Minister's Bill as a noxious form of paternalistic censorship which has no place in a liberal democracy. An article in The Irish Times on 15 October described it as a bad Bill which will only make things worse. Maybe those descriptions are a little too extreme but I think the Bill goes too far.
If there is no classification system the censor will be put in a position where if a film is unsuitable for a young person he will have to ban it. In other words an adult will not be able to see the film. That is the objective of the Bill. It will be extremely difficult for the censor to know where to draw the line. I spoke about the position with regard to films and the ludicrous situation that will result. I will give an example of a film which is referred to in an article in The Irish Times of 15 October. It is called “Angel Heart”, directed by Alan Parker. I have not seen the film myself.
I saw it.
Apparently that film caused a furore in America because of certain sexual scenes and the way they were treated in the film. The Irish censor passed that film with an over 18 certificate. As I said, I have not seen the film but Deputy De Rossa saw it. I do not know whether soft porn would be the appropriate description for it.
It is a very nice film but it is somewhat erotic.
It could be described as soft porn. The Irish censor has passed that film with an over 18 certificate. That means, if this Bill is passed as it stands, in so far as videos are concerned that film will be on general release and a 12 year old can get it in a video shop. I think the Minister said in his speech that the object of the Bill is to ensure that soft porn would not be seen by young people.
Not soft porn.
He said soft porn. I will check it out because I want to put it on the record. The Minister said that the position with regard to drink is not a good comparison with that of films. I think it is a very appropriate and valid comparison. It recognises what the State is or is not supposed to do, what it can reasonably do or what it cannot be expected to do. If one wanted to take the extreme position and say we will have an absolute control on drink sales to young people one could say we will have prohibition, as happened in the United States, and ban drink. That would ensure that nobody under age would avail of alcoholic liquor. The same could apply in this case. If we wanted to make absolutely sure that no young person would see a film that we think should not be seen by a young person we could say that we will just ban them all but we cannot do that.
We have to try to strike a reasonable balance while recognising that there may be some defects and the system may not work 100 per cent. We have to accept that fact. That is the thrust of the alcoholic liquor legislation which attempts to strike that balance. It says we will not allow the sale of alcoholic liquor to young people. Of course we are not fools. We all know that, although we provide restrictions to that extent, many young people will get around those restrictions. Indeed there may be unscrupulous adults who will buy the liquor for them, let them have it and so on. But that does not mean we should bring in prohibition to deal with that eventuality. So it is with the position vis-à-vis videos. We know there may be cases of parents who would not care or other unscrupulous adults who would get such material for them. That is something we must recognise and face up to. That is the alternative obtaining with regard to a classification system. The other alternative is to adopt an extreme censorship stance and deny adults the viewing of videos that are perfectly proper and in order for them to see. If one had to choose between those two alternatives I would have no hesitation in going for the more liberal approach.
The Minister was advancing as possible grounds for support of his measure the fact that it would cost somewhat more, might cause delay and so on. They are weak arguments which would not withstand the test.
The basic net issue here is that the House in Committee should not allow this Bill to proceed in a manner that will produce a totally silly and illogical result. I do not know how the Minister can ask us to assist him in passing legislation that would bring about that result. Once we have and accept a cinema arrangement under which classification takes place, whether or not we like it, we are then left in the position that a similar arrangement must obtain with regard to videos. Otherwise the provision makes no sense and the defects of that system would be highlighted very rapidly.
I welcomed the Minister's indication that he did not intend to be stubborn on the issue of classification. However, having listened to what he had to say, it is quite clear that he has his mind made up. Because the spokesperson for the Progressive Democrats has indicated that they are not in favour of amendments other Deputies have tabled our only way of convincing the Minister is by argument rather than threats of defeat on votes.
From that point of view I would be anxious to clarify a number of points. Amendment No. 3 in my name and those of other Workers' Party Deputies involves simply a definition of a "limited supply certificate". Amendments Nos. 4 and 6 are consequential on that definition. The two amendments I am most anxious to promote are Nos. 13 and 14. The reason we have tabled amendments Nos. 13 and 14 is that we are seeking to ensure that, where the official censor grants a certificate in respect of a film and applies age restrictions to the viewing of that film, those same restrictions should apply to a video in respect of which he must automatically issue a certificate. Therefore we argue if the official censor believes a film requires certain restrictions, the same restrictions should apply equally to a video. That does not necessitate any additional expenditure by the official censor, or any additional effort on his part but simply his passing on the decision he has already taken in regard to a film or a video.
Amendment No. 14 reads:
In page 6, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) Where the Official Censor is of the opinion that any video work in respect of which an application has been made to him for a supply certificate is not fit for general supply, but is fit for supply only to persons above a certain age limit, he may grant to the person making the application a certificate (referred to in this Act as a `limited supply certificate') declaring that such video is fit for supply subject to restriction, conditions or advices (which shall be expressed in the certificate) in regard to the categories of person to whom the video may be supplied.".
We tabled that amendment specifically because it appeared to us, from a reading of the Bill as it stands, that the official censor may only accept or reject a video — excluding the exception referred to already when he must grant one when he has dealt with the relevant film — if he is of opinion — and I will quote the relevant subsection, which says:
(i) would be likely to cause persons to commit crimes...
It does not specify the crimes although the Minister appears to think those provisions apply to crimes against women only. Obviously there is a much wider range of crimes involved. Section 3 (1) (a) (i) and (ii) continue:
whether by inciting or encouraging them to do so or by indicating or suggesting ways of doing so or of avoiding detection, or would tend, by reason of the inclusion in it of any obscene or indecent matter, to deprave or corrupt persons who might view it,
The argument has been advanced before but I will reiterate that that is a very broad definition and includes almost anything one might care to think of depending on the approach of the official censor. It has been said, and I would agree, that we have at present a very sensible official censor. However, we did not always have a sensible official censor. The official censor did not always adopt a liberal approach to films. Indeed, as a population, we suffered as a result in terms of the restrictions placed on adults as to what they might view in the cinema.
Taking section 3, as it stands, I contend that the official censor may only reject or accept a video. If he accepts it he must have at the back of his mind — as the provisions of the Bill stand — that that entails acceptance for all ages and categories and there can be no restriction imposed on anybody walking into a shop to rent or buy that video. I argue that, unless we give the official censor the right to classify, he will be more likely to ban more videos. That is my fear. If you like, I am arguing from a different pole from other Deputies. I contend that the provisions of this Bill will be more restrictive than we would hope or intend, that the official censor will feel obliged to be more restrictive in terms of the certificates he will grant for videos because he will be aware of the fact that they will not be restricted in terms of their sale or rental. I am concerned that these provisions will result in less availability of adult films on video. I have no compunction at all in admitting that. I am not dead from the waist down, no more than, I hope I am dead from the neck up——
Has the Deputy a heart in between?
One would have to dig very deep for that.
We would have to ascertain whether or not that is true. We should not pretend that the only event in which we are interested is the great train robbery. Life consists of considerably more than that; our needs and feelings deserve more. Our purpose here is to ensure that the extremely gross, gratuituous violence at present portrayed in video form should not be available particularly to young, immature children who are not in a position to cope with the kinds of emotions that would be aroused as a result of their viewing.
I am not convinced by the argument that videos, film or television, willy nilly, lead to crime or assault on women. I advanced that argument on Second Stage and I do not propose to repeat it now. For psychological or other reasons these people are already pre-disposed towards attacking women or old ladies or old men and they will be influenced by video nasties. We should look at this in terms of avoiding unduly restricting the right of the censor to make adult videos available for adults while at the same time ensuring that immature people do not have access to them. I have already made the arguments in relation to the licensing laws. If we were to take the view that something is unenforceable and that therefore we should not legislate for it, then there is an argument for doing away with a whole lot of legislation. I do not accept that argument and I have used the licensing laws as a good example. The Minister is wrong in saying that we are arguing about the effects of alcohol and the effects of videos. The question is whether or not we should take the right to restrict or classify certain types of video availability through the shops. We should take that right in order to give the censor a freer hand in relation to how he decides what videos to let through.
Earlier I made the point that the difficulty in enforcing a classification system is the main difficulty with these amendments. To introduce an unenforceable section in this Bill would bring the whole Bill into disrepute and would add to the disrepute with which a lot of legislation is viewed. I have no objection to the censor having a right to classify as long as we are not obliging him to do something that is not enforceable.
The argument about how legislation deals with alcohol has a relevance to this debate. There are two different types of amendments before us, one relating to the supply of videos to under-aged people and the other relates to the supply and viewing of video material. As the Minister said, the object of the Bill is to restrict the viewing of certain videos to adults. As far as I understand it, the purpose of this Bill is to take out of circulation the kinds of videos which are gross, obscene, which constitute hard pornography and which would incite people to commit crime. Nevertheless, I have to acknowledge that there is an anomaly in that the decision of the censor has been made regarding a film before it ever gets to the video shops.
The normal occurrence is that a film is released generally in the cinema and then some years later it is released on video in the video shops. The censor will have made his decision in the light of the film shown in the cinema and there could be said to be an anomaly between the restriction he places on the film in the cinema and a decision that might be made in relation to videos. If there were a possibility of restricting the supply of those videos I would be prepared to consider it. I say that, feeling that the Bill as it stands and the amendments as they stand do not greatly enhance the possibility of enforcing these types of restrictions.
My basic objection is still the fact that it would be extremely difficult to enforce this section and this would bring the Bill and other legislation into disrepute. I have to acknowledge that there is an anomaly here, that there is a comparison to be made with the supply of alcohol, but the laws relating to the supply of alcohol to young people also bring the legal system into disrepute. We passed the Intoxicating Liquor Act earlier this year. It provided the means for further implementing the laws on restricting the supplies of alcohol to young people. Those methods have not been implemented. The age cards which were allowed for under that Bill have not been introduced and I do not know of any plans the Minister may have for introducing them. The age cards would enable publicans to decide who can and cannot be supplied with intoxicating liquor. They could also be used to enforce this legislation. My basic objection is not to the restriction that might be imposed on these films by a censor, but that I doubt the enforceability of it. If we could find some way around that I would have no objection to having a classification system of some sort in the Bill.
According to the evidence given to the Select Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism a list of approximately 30 films considered to be obscene was published by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Britain and it was issued prior to their legislation. The legislation introduced in Britain has helped to clean up the scene there but there is evidence to suggest that because of the legislation in Britain, which came into effect in September 1986, there has been a certain amount of dumping of some of the video nasties on the Irish market. It was suggested to the committee in evidence that where pornography is stocked by clubs here either openly or under the counter, these films account for 25 per cent to 33 per cent of turnover and that a comparable figure in Britain would be only 5 to 10 per cent. With that in mind, we should consider the recommendation made that we accept an international coding system for classifying videos and that unclassified videos be banned outright simply because they do not come within the classification system. There are about 220,000 video machines in the Republic and about 600 outlets. Some sort of classification should be brought in and the international classification code is what the report recommends. We should look at that. If we ban the videos outright we will drive them underground. The proximity of the Republic to Northern Ireland, the ease with which things can be imported within these islands generally, whether or not they are banned, does not augur well for legislation which would concentrate on banning rather than classifying. There is a case for classification.
Within RTE they have what is called a film acceptance viewers' staff group who have to vet films before they are shown. I believe about 70 per cent of RTE's output is acquired programming. A little over 60 per cent of the population in the Republic have access to other television and radio stations, but in the case of foreign television stations, it is a matter for their legislators to decide what they show on television. The Minister suggests that we should have control over the videos people can buy and bring into their own homes. Why is the Minister not concerned about what people can see on their television screen, programmes which are being beamed from foreign stations?
The legislation on its own does not really address the central problem; it only addresses a part of the problem. We should not be afraid to say what we want to see available here and we should lay down the law so far as we have control and seek to have that standard adopted throughout Europe, especially the countries which are beaming programmes of violence into our homes.
There are people in RTE who think they should be above criticism and defend anything they say as "using their editorial judgment". They will be offended if their editorial judgment is called into account. They do not appear to have heard of democracy, although, to be fair, the editorial judgment exercised in RTE is good, but it is not beyond criticism. In my view, some programmes showing violence get by their staff viewing panel. I mentioned on Second Stage a programme shown during childrens' viewing time which I believe is completely unsuitable for young children.
As I said, we are not really addressing the underlying problem of violence in the community and that is what we should be looking at. Some women's groups gave evidence to the committee and said there was no point banning or controlling videos, but that we had to understand what hard core pornography is and what violence is. They said somebody should carry out an examination into hard core pornography and violence and look at the various ways they affect the community. I must be fair to RTE because Mr. Finn gave evidence to the committee and I want to put on record a view which concurs with what Deputy De Rossa said and argues a little against what I have been saying to present a fair argument. Paragraph 7.7 of the report says:
On the question of the effects of violence on television on young persons RTE informed the committee that it is extremely difficult to establish any casual relationship. It is extremely expensive to investigate this topic and it is conceptually difficult to link cause and effect. In 1972 a US Government sponsored study, United States surgeon general's report on the relationship between television violence and behaviour, after conducting 23 prestigious surveys and spending over $1 million could only conclude that there was a preliminary and tentative relationship between violence and television viewing.
It is worth putting that on record to balance what I have been saying.
The whole question of violence, in particular in the case of video nasties and hard core pornography, need to be addressed by the Legislature in general. We have to look at the cause and effect before we can look for the solution, and this Bill is only a small part of the solution. So far as we can, we should look at the international classification of videos and we should not be too inclined to ban because that will only have the effect of driving the sale of videos underground.
I hoped the Minister, as the Minister for Justice with overall responsibility in this area, would look at the broader problem of violence in the community, its sources, what causes it and what the effects are. I would like him to tackle this problem from that point of view and not simply introduce a Bill on video nasties three years after the crimes' committee issued their report.
The fundamental difference between the sides has been well thrashed out over the last hour or more, and it would appear that the Government and the Progressive Democrats have a different view of the legislation than the other parties.
I think Deputy Colley has come around on that.
Hopefully. It would appear that the Government's attitude is that the key element of the Bill is to outlaw the video nasties described by the Minister in his Second Stage speech as extremely violent film but in my view, the legislation is doing more than that. We should be dealing with the supply and control of videos generally. That was mentioned in the opening paragraph of the Minister's speech when he said the purpose of the Bill was to regulate the sale, hire and supply generally of video recordings. If we are to take that as the purpose of the Bill, we are doing more than outlawing video nasties, and if we are doing that, we have to think in terms of regulation.
I fail to see how one side can say that once the video nasty is banned everything else comes under a general classification. I do not believe we can do that. In my view section 3 (1) (a) (i) will allow us to do that because that paragraph by itself, goes further than simply outlawing the video nasty. If we are going to pay particular reference to a piece of material that would be likely to cause persons to commit crime, whether by inciting or encouraging, we have to cut our cloth to suit our measure. We have to include references to banning and outlawing the material where young people particularly are concerned.
I want to put a question to the Minister which will have an important practical effect. Say a parent with his children are out for a Sunday afternoon drive and decide to take home a video for Sunday night viewing. How does he know if this video is suitable for children if there is no classification on it? It may be left to the Videogram Association to police this area, but I am not sure if that is sufficient. There is a need to have a clearly defined category shown on a film. Deputy Taylor referred to the film "Angel Heart". I have not seen it but I have eaten an ice cream called "Angel Heart". The name of a film can be totally different from its content and we will not know what is in a film unless there is a system of classification. I see a role for the Film Censor here.
The final question I ask the Minister is, what is the future role of the Film Censor to be on the passing of the legislation as it stands so far as classification is concerned? I join in what previous speakers have said about the work and role of the censor in the past few years and the difficult task he has. It is going to be more difficult now for the Film Censor to use the international code he has been using for classification of films for the big screen in the knowledge that he has passed the exact same material uncut, the exact same script from start to finish, under a general classification. It is going to place him in a very difficult position. It is also going to add an extra element of pressure in that he may now have certain doubts about a general classification that he would not have if he could include the "under 12 with adult" or "over 16" valve that is available in the event of a doubt appearing. After listening here for a couple of hours my view is that the argument in favour of a blanket in or out is not particularly convincing when one looks at the role of the Film Censor as it is and the international coding referred to by the previous speaker. I fail to see why that cannot be included for the benefit of the consumer as well as for the protection of society.
Deputy Mitchell has gone. I agree entirely with what he has said about the problems we have in the modern world with the increasing number of satellite TV stations. I made that point on Second Stage and suggested that if we could have a European Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism we could also have a European Convention for the suppression of violence and pornography through our TV screens or whatever.
In reply to what Deputy Colley and the Minister said in relation to bringing the law into disrepute, I would not like to be part of any legislature that would do that, but I believe we would have that result if he included classification. Here we are talking about the supply, as with alcohol. Deputy Taylor made a very good contribution in that regard. We are talking about controlling supply to certain categories of people and I do not think it would be possible for us to legislate further in this. We cannot go into the home and legislate for behaviour in the home, but we can say in regard to alcohol, videos or whatever we are talking about that those who have under their control videos or alcohol for sale, hiring, letting or whatever have an obligation to society. If the Film Censor says that in his opinion a certain video is not suitable for under 18s the person supplying that video has a responsibility to society just as legislators, the Garda Síochána and so on have. That is all we are saying: you exercise that responsibility and do not supply that video to somebody under that age.
When the Censorship of Films Act, 1923 was brought in — I mentioned this on Second Stage — there were four categories of certificate that could be issued by the Film Censor in relation to films. He could issue a universal one certifying the film suitable for all, one regarding persons under 12 accompanied by an adult, one in respect of persons over 16 years of age and one in respect of persons over 18 years of age. That was back in 1923 and it has been operating ever since. Generally the Film Censor uses his intelligence, skill and ability and there should be very little crib with the manner in which he goes about doing his work, whoever is in the post at the time. The Film Censor has discretion. He has four categories and he can say he thinks this film is suitable for anybody, or for people under 12 provided they are accompanied by an adult, for persons over 16 or over 18. Deputy Flanagan made the real point. A person goes in with his family to a video shop saying, "We will stay at home on Saturday night, have a meal and sit down and watch a video." How is he to know what type of film this is going to be unless somebody gives some direction? At least if there is a little tab on the video which is there as a result of the Film Censor's opinion it is a warning sign. You may still take it and show it to your kids, but at least there is a warning sign and we have done a job; we have said that this warning sign says what the Film Censor thinks. You could have nothing or perhaps have to depend on a voluntary exercise on the part of the Irish Videogram Association. I do not want to suggest for one moment that the videogram association as an association will not do their best to adhere to certain standards and my experience of them to date suggests they are responsible enough as a body, but that is not to say that some of their 600 members, whoever they are, may not remove tabs from videos, and it is not breaking the law. You cannot really depend on voluntary effort in this regard. It is far more serious than that. However, if at the moment they are providing a service, so be it, we must be pleased because no legislation is in place, but we are talking about passing legislation to do precisely the same thing and there seem to be grave objections to it. I do not think we are going to bring the law into disrepute if we provide that the Film Censor has discretion and when he makes his decision we then talk about the supply of the video. We do not talk about who is going to see it eventually but about the supply of it. That is the point that must be taken into account. After that it is really the responsibility of parents in particular.
I want to say in reply to a couple of points made by Deputy Mitchell of course we have regard to what is contained in the report of the Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism. There is no doubt about that and I said that on Second Stage. With regard to another matter he raised which was raised also by Deputy Barrett on the type of material now available for TV having regard to the satellite television era which we are practically in, of course the responsibility for material available on TV in the home is a matter for the Minister for Communications. We have been in touch with him because with major developments and expansion in TV broadcast services, particularly of a transfrontier satellite transmitted nature, there is concern with regard to standards of programming that may become available. This concern is not unique to ourselves. It is recognised in Europe, and the only effective way to ensure that reasonable standards of broadcasting are maintained is by taking action at international level. The EC proposed to issue a directive aimed at establishing certain basic standards which member states will be required to impose on broadcasting services originating in their own state. As Deputy Colley said on Second Stage, standards that may be suitable and acceptable in Italy may not be suitable and acceptable here. There are many problems there.
Deputy Mitchell mentioned 30 titles on the British DPP's list. They would in all probability have prohibition orders made in respect of them under section 6, but that would be a matter for the censor.
That brings me directly to a point raised by Deputy De Rossa. I say to him, bearing in mind the purpose of the Bill with which we all agree, that I am more than satisfied we are bringing in the minimum. We are legislating only in the minimum area here, and there is no reason to be afraid of making more restrictive censorship. The censor will and must have the freedom to make decisions. I would refer Deputies to page 5 of the Explanatory Memorandum which says:
In all cases the existence of the ground will be a question for the Official Censor; and it will be for him to determine, as a matter of discretion, whether the objectionable feature in question is sufficiently serious to justify a refusal of a certificate. (The Official Censor's decision will be subject to appeal to the Appeal Board under section 9.)
That latitude is there and nobody will take that away from the censor.
We are all agreed that the legislation has to be realistic. I am advised and I am satisfied, having given the matter very serious consideration, that the type of classification we are talking about here will not achieve the objectives of the amendments, and I know what the objectives of the amendments are; they have been well and truly stated.
I can see merit in the suggestion that there should be classification for guidance purposes, and we may be able to get some common ground there; but in my view we should not take away from the role of parents in this area. If we do that we are in difficulty because the problem lies in the viewing of these films, and parents must have a big influence here.
I take Deputy De Rossa's point with regard to laying too much emphasis on delay and costs. They are not that important but are just a small factor. It is not something I would go to the wall on if additional costs were required to have a good scheme. It is just a minor point that I made along the way.
It is not necessary for me to go back over points that have been made not once or twice but many times. I accept the good faith in which they were made, but we cannot walk away from the basic purpose of the Bill which is to prevent pornographic and video nasty films being available. We cannot move away from the self-imposed guidance which is necessary in this area. Classification should not be seen as a way out for parents or anybody else.
Having regard to the discussions that have taken place, I could say that I would give consideration to the possibility of classification for guidance purposes but it would not be enforceable. If the House feels that there would be some value in that I would be prepared to consider that.
If the Minister were to do that and give local authorities the reserved power to renew licences annually then councillors could use influence against outlets that do not abide by the guidelines.
We will be coming to that later on in the Bill.
It would be a way of enforcing the non-statutory guidelines.
When Deputy Mitchell was making his contribution in regard to local authorities having to be available to meet groups in their areas I could already see the guys on the white horses galloping up and down through the communities. I appreciate what the Deputy is trying to do.
In some counties they will be bringing in pornographic videos under section 4.
Let me say what I am trying to say. I can see difficulties in what Deputy Mitchell is suggesting. Would we find ourselves with some sort of vigilante committee in each community?
They are elected councillors, not vigilantes. It is recommended there in the select committee report.
What we are dealing with now is the question of classification. I have been arguing very strongly against classification on the grounds that it will not achieve the purposes that the people moving the amendments have been advocating and on the grounds that there is no way in the world that it would be enforceable. A valid argument has been made that classification would be of help to parents. I cannot accept the amendments as they are, but I would certainly be prepared to see if I can come up with something along the lines we have been talking about on Report Stage.
I take the point the Minister is making. At this point in the debate it is a reasonable compromise and I would be happy to consider it if the Minister would indicate what he has in mind — I am not asking him to do it immediately but perhaps when we are resuming the debate on Committee Stage.
I will do so on Report Stage.
We are not completing the Committee Stage today.
I accept that.
It would give us time to consider what is being proposed. It would certainly, to a large extent, overcome the problem which I foresaw in relation to how constrained a censor might feel if he was passing a video for general release which he felt would not be suitable for young people with no indication to parents or video shops as to who should or should not be allowed to rent it. While the Minister is correct in saying that under the existing legislation and under the proposed legislation the censor would be free to make decisions, my belief is that as the Bill stands, without some form of classification, he would feel duty bound to restrict films or refuse to pass films which he felt were on the margin, which were not totally of the video nasty type — and it is a difficult area to judge — but which were such that he might feel adults in general should be allowed to view if they want to view that kind of thing but at the same time he felt that children under 18 should not be allowed to rent. As has already been said we are, to a large extent, whether the law is there or not, depending on the responsibility of the video shop owner or operator in handing out material. My initial reaction is that I would welcome a more specific idea as to what the Minister is proposing with regard to classification.
I also think the Minister's compromise is not unreasonable and would be worthy of consideration but I think the Minister is wrong when he says there is no way of implementing control. I am not in favour of being over-censorious. I am not in favour of vigilantes but if the owner of an outlet must apply for a licence annually, and the granting of a licence is a reserved function of local authorities, at least we have a point of control. A certain amount of moral pressure can be used to require people operating such outlets to adhere to the code laid down, even if it is not in a statutory form. If the Minister is fearful that a licence holder may be treated unfairly, and may not have any confidence in the local democratic process, he should adopt the recommendation of the report of the select committee that such people be given a right of appeal to the courts. If the Minister is prepared to consider that, the type of non-statutory classification now proposed might be acceptable
I am not clear on what the Minister means by his statement about classification for the guidance of parents. The notion of classification introduced might not face up to the fact that classification is required. What is the difference between classification for the guidance of parents and classification on what will or will not be licensed? There is a dichotomy of thinking there. While classification is a help I do not think it goes far enough. To what extent will such a provision influence the censor? Will the censor say that a film he would otherwise ban will be permitted because he will be in a position to put an unofficial classification on it? I do not know if the censor will work in that way.
The fact that the Minister mentions a classification system at all indicates that he is aware that videos fall into different categories and classes. The Minister must have some doubt about the question because otherwise he would not mention classification. Once we have classification and different clases we should face up to the problem. The amendments are reasonable and as enforceable as any provision could be. I agree that they may not be fully enforceable but they can be enforced within limits. If enforceability is to be the test the Bill will be a complete failure. It will not succeed if we are looking for a high degree of enforceability because we have not succeeded in dealing with the very large illegal operation that has been going on for years in regard to videos. According to information furnished to me one-third of all videos that go through the channels are pirated and illegal. We have not made any great stand about enforcing the law in regard to them.
There is no legislation to cover them; the copyright Act does not deal with them.
The copyright Act makes pirating illegal. That illegal operation involves huge sums of money and has been going on for years. We should not say that because a provision will not be 100 per cent enforceable we should not have introduced it. Otherwise, a lot of legislation would not be introduced. The problem we face is twofold. The Bill will not achieve what it sets out to achieve; it will achieve something it does not set out to achieve. The Minister told us that the objective of the Bill is to prevent children viewing unsuitable videos. However, the Bill does not achieve that objective in the context of cinemas. A film, that may be banned for under 18s in cinemas may be readily available for 11-year olds on video. Will the Minister say how the Bill will prevent children viewing unsuitable videos? In my view they will be licensed to view unsuitable videos. The main thrust of the Bill is supposed to prevent children viewing unsuitable videos but it will do the reverse, it will give them a licence to see films that the censor has decided should not be seen by those under 18.
The Bill will be doing something it is not intended to do, namely preventing adults from seeing films which are appropriate for them to see although there has not been any suggestion that the Bill is intended to stop adults seeing films that are proper for them to see. There is a double flaw in the Bill and the Minister has not dealt with them. The classification system will go a long way towards dealing with one of those difficulties.
The extent to which pornographic films will be banned has been referred to. Earlier I asked if the Minister had said anything about soft porn. I should like to refer to an article in The Irish Times of 14 July 1987 by Mary Cummins to the effect that tough new laws to ban video nasties would be introduced in the Seanad by mid-September and would probably be in force before Christmas. According to that article, which was based on statements by the Minister for Justice the previous day, the laws would include soft porn and blue or hard porn movies. It may be that comment was unfair and was not intended. However, it is interesting to note that the same article stated that the Minister was hopeful of consensus on the matter and expected the law to pass through the Oireachtas relatively quickly. It said that he was also open to taking on board amendments to the Bill. It is important that he should be reminded of that statement.
The Minister has said that the censor must have the freedom to make decisions, and I accept that, but the question of his terms of reference arises. They are crucial, as they were in connection with the revision of constituencies. People have different views as to what comes within the category of pornography. We have to remember that the censor, under the terms of this Bill, would be under intense pressure from those many organised groups, mostly those at the conservative end of the spectrum who would bring pressure to bear. We have seen that before. Those conservative and ultra-conservative groupings will be putting intense pressure on the censor where many of these videos would be concerned. They will say to the censor that this film, which might be a good film and quite appropriate for adult viewing, if it is licensed, children will see it and, therefore, it ought to be banned. That is bound to be a telling argument with the censor and this is the nub of the problem. Whichever way you look at it you will cut out from adult viewing a large proportion of material without any justification, which is totally inappropriate, all for the sake of trying to control the young person's aspect of it, that is literally throwing out the baby with the bath water.
The objective of controlling these things for young people is correct. We all support the Minister in that and it is needed. The Minister is going too far down that road and he is saying that to achieve that end we have to cut out viewing for adults as well, right across the board, and that is where it becomes difficult. There is no other way around that other than the classification arrangement. That was the position in the cinemas. It worked reasonably well. The cinema is a controlled situation and I accept that but it depends on the honesty and the acceptance of the law by the cinema proprietors. The letting out of video films is also controlled by the owners of the video shops. One has to assume that while there will always be cowboys and bandits who will break the law, the overwhelming bulk of licensed video shop owners — as is the case with the bulk of cinema owners — will obey the law and if the restrictions are there they will have regard to them. If they do not obey the law, under the licensing arrangements they can be made amenable and that might not be all that difficult. They might be worried about losing their licence if they were to break the law in that respect.
Perhaps there is some other way of dealing with this dilemma other than by classification. If there is, I cannot think of it. If anybody else can think of another way of doing it he should say so and we could look at it. I can think of no other way. Classification is not a perfect way either, it has its faults, but it is the best line open to us to give a balanced result, a fair result and logical result, particularly when compared with the cinema situation.
Like the previous speakers I would be only too pleased to co-operate in any way I could in finding a solution to this problem without having to vote certain measures through the Chamber. Deputy De Rossa's amendment is very similar to mine. We had included "supplied or viewed". I would be prepared to delete "or viewed". The Minister is talking about certification of video works and he is referring to a supply certificate. We are dealing only with supply certificates. We have made progress because the Minister said he would look at it and we have the option on Report Stage of retabling an amendment.
I would like to put on record that we reserve that right to retable our amendments. It is grand saying that the Minister is prepared to look at it in the context of giving guidance to parents. Like Deputy Taylor, I cannot see how that can be done because what we are talking about here is the censor making a decision based on what he sees. The censor is being afforded the opportunity of issuing a supply certificate — not a viewing certificate — and surely in addition to issuing a supply certificate he can issue a "limited supply certificate". In other words, the "limited supply certificate" would be that persons under 18 should not be supplied — not that they should not be allowed view it. The only thing I can think of — and it is in keeping with what we have all spoken about earlier — is the farcical situation that could arise vis-à-vis films and cinemas.
In regard to enforcement, I would like to endorse what Deputy Taylor said. If we are going to look at enforcement from the outside we will never get anywhere. I have yet to see a member of the Garda Síochána walking along a cinema queue asking people what age they are, if there was a sign up that this film is for over 18-year olds and over.
Nor have I ever heard of a single prosecution in that regard.
But the reality is that a large number of cinema proprietors will say: "We will adhere to the rules of the Film Censor". By and large you will not see 12 and 13 year olds getting into a film which has a certificate for 18 and upwards. I cannot say it has never happened. I have never seen a member of the Garda Síochána walking up and down a cinema queue — I do not think any of us would expect them to, because they have plenty of other things to do. There is always the option that if a cinema proprietor is constantly abusing the certificate that has been issued by the censor you can go along to the local superintendent and say: "Would you ever do something about this?" Then the Garda Síochána have the power — and that is the important thing — to go and do something about it with the cinema proprietor. Under this system the Minister will also have the power because he can make regulations under this Bill in relation to the issue of licences, and he can issue amending orders at any stage setting out under what conditions a licence will be issued. If the Minister has not got that power he should give it to himself now.
If the Minister finds that he is getting numerous complaints about a particular video shop and that they are not adhering to the law regarding a "limited supply certificate", when the licence comes up for renewal he can always deal with that individual by not renewing the licence. He does not have to think about enforcing the law in terms of Garda Síochána time. There are other ways of enforcing the law besides having members of the Garda Síochána visiting video shops every second day of the week. I would ask the Minister, when considering this matter, to think about a supply certificate not a viewing certificate — and a limited supply certificate.
The debate this morning was worthwhile. We have said it all at this stage. I would be prepared to postpone pressing our amendment if I thought that the Minister would give this matter genuine and serious thought. He knows our feelings and I think we are trying to achieve the same thing. We do not want to end up with legislation that looks foolish and we do not want to impose unnecessary restrictions. Like Deputy Taylor, I have not yet come across any other method that can be used other than a limited supply certificate in order to achieve what we want to achieve.
I want to say that this is the type of legislation on which we should have consensus. I would like to say that at the start. I will consider adding to the Bill a provision on the general line that labels will include an indication of the categories of viewers for whom the video work is suitable. That is the line on which I am thinking and that is the line on which I am prepared to come back on Report Stage.
Will the censor have a role in this?
It is the censor who will put on the label.
May I ask the Minister what he is proposing when we resume on Committee Stage? We have not disposed of these amendments yet.
I cannot come back with a draft now. I want to make it clear. I do not want to be accused of misleading anybody. I have gone as far as I can go now. I propose to come back on Report Stage on the understanding that the amendments are not pressed.
What I am saying is——