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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
Porn age-limit move scuppered
Magazine
Some Lib Dems say attitudes to porn are changing

Liberal Democrat leaders have avoided a potentially damaging defeat over calls to relax the laws on pornography.

Simon Hughes, the party's home affairs spokesman, narrowly won a call to refer the matter back for further consideration.


The late Mary Whitehouse succeeded in attracting audiences to films and programmes of which she disapproved

Julian Gold
The party's youth and students wing (LDYS) had wanted to reduce the age limit on sex videos and magazines from 18 to 16.

The group said adults should be free to choose what they see, the age of 16 should be the threshold and that the industry should be better regulated.

Lib Dem leaders feared a defeat on the issue could damage the party's credibility as a mainstream political force.

Mr Hughes argued that there was nothing in the motion to protect young people under 16 or to regulate the internet.

'Consensual sex'

After a quick show of hands, Mr Hughes won a bid to refer the matter back to a Liberal Democrat policy committee by 259 votes to 228.

Party leader Charles Kennedy had already argued that there were technical problems with the motion.

But Chris Gee, of the LYDS, insisted the measure related "solely to consensual sexual activity between adults over the age of 16".

He said the current Lib Dems stance, which claimed that pornography "exploits women and demeans men", was outdated.

Simon Hughes
Mr Hughes: Porn move did not 'protect' children
"Pornography is already prevalent in Britain today," he told delegates. "72% of internet users have searched for pornography."

The move aimed to "protect the young, the vulnerable and all members of society" and would not mean "forcing pornography on people".

"This motion aims to protect workers, uphold freedom and free up police time to deal with the unacceptable forms of pornography," said Mr Gee.

'Nanny state'

But one delegate said she found the industry "utterly degrading, utterly disgusting, utterly distressing" because the women involved in the films were mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts.

"These are not cardboard characters," she said.

Delegate Julian Gold, from North Norfolk, called for pornography to be "managed by regulation, to minimise potential dangers to vulnerable people".

Mr Gold said he was opposed to the "nanny state" that decided how people should live.

'Grow up'

But he drew laughter when he quipped: "Being very elderly and I'm 81, I can claim to be one of the vulnerable people referred to in the amendment."

More chuckles followed when he added: "The late Mary Whitehouse succeeded in attracting audiences to films and programmes of which she disapproved.

"Individual freedom is our motto, let us give a stamp of approval to this full motion. Be adult, grow up, vote against the amendment."

The matter will be debated by the party's policy committee, which will return to next year's conference with a new proposal.


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23 Sep 02 | Politics
14 May 02 | UK
27 Oct 00 | UK
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