Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Tuesday 18 June 1991


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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. David Knox

Benn, Mr. Tony (Chesterfield)

Campbell, Mr. Ronnie (Blyth Valley)

Clay, Mr. Bob (Sunderland, North)

Critchley, Mr. Julian (Aldershot)

Cunliffe, Mr. Lawrence (Leigh)

Currie, Mrs. Edwina (Derbyshire, South)

Duffy, Sir Patrick (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Dunn, Mr. Bob (Dartford)

Forsythe, Mr. Clifford (Antrim, South)

Hamilton, Mr. Neil (Tatton)

Livingstone, Mr. Ken (Brent, East)

Needham, Mr. Richard (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)

Sayeed, Mr. Jonathan (Bristol, East)

Stott, Mr. Roger (Wigan)

Townsend, Mr. Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)

Tracey, Mr. Richard (Surbiton)

Trotter, Mr. Neville (Tynemouth)

Ward, Mr. John (Poole)

Wiggin, Mr. Jerry (Weston-super-Mare)

Mr. F. A. Cranmer, Committee Clerk

3 Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Tuesday 18 June 1991

[MR. DAVID KNOX in the Chair]

Draft Cinemas (Northern Ireland) Order 1991

10.30 am

The Parliamentary under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Cinemas (Northern Ireland) Order 1991. The order has been proposed in order to introduce tighter controls on film exhibitions, comparable to those in operation in Great Britain. It provides a more stringent licensing system, draws videos within its scope, blocks an existing loophole whereby so called film "clubs" will be prevented from circumventing the licensing, censorship and safety requirements and imposes stiffer sanctions for breach of the licensing requirements. Honourable Members will wish to know that the proposals were well received by interested parties. I received 12 formal responses during the consultation period and all were supportive of the broad thrust of the proposals. Although some points of a detailed and technical nature were raised, none has necessitated any material change to the excellent order. I commend the order to the Committee.

10.31 am

Mr. Clifford Forsythe (Antrim, South): Although I give a general welcome to the order, I have a few points to make. I would have expected the order to pay some attention to satellite broadcasting and videos. I can only assume that they will be covered by the Broadcasting Act 1990, which I suppose will also cover Radio Telefis Eireann. I should have liked the order to have had greater safeguards for consistency of control by district councils in the operation of cinemas. That would have prevented the embarrassing situation that is likely to arise when two cinemas within a short distance of each other, although in different district 4 council areas, could operate under different conditions or with different admission restrictions. That would be embarrassing for all concerned. I am pleased that the time for written notice of the intention to use premises for film exhibitions has been extended from seven to 14 days and that the time for notice regarding a moveable building has been extended from two to seven days. I am disappointed that no provision is made in article 15 for spot checks without notice, but at reasonable times, of course. It would also have been better had article 16 specified that Home Office guidelines could be used as a reference point where an appeal was made to a county court. In spite of those points, I repeat my general welcome to the order.

10.33 am

Mr. Needham: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. Satellite broadcasting and videos are covered by the order as they are covered in the definition of film exhibition, although I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that might seem slightly strange. The hon. Gentleman is right about district councils having powers that are at their discretion, but that is true throughout the country as a whole. It would be possible to have a centrally agreed standard similar to that of the British Board of Film Classification, but the Government have long determined that that power should be given to district councils, and they have little enough powers in Northern Ireland. There is no evidence that many difficulties are being created, but I accept that some people, although not those in the hon. Gentleman's party, might view some of the films on show in Northern Ireland with disfavour. Nevertheless, it is a power that district councils have exercised with restraint and sense. I take the hon. Gentleman's comments on board, but we are in line with the rest of the country. I also note his other technical points which we shall consider.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Cinemas (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.

Committee rose at twenty-five minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Knox, Mr. David (Chairman)

Dunn, Mr.

Forsythe, Mr. Clifford

Hamilton, Mr. Neil

Needham, Mr.

Sayeed, Mr.

Townsend, Mr. Cyril D.

Tracey, Mr.

Trotter, Mr.

Ward, Mr.