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Last Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008, 16:14 GMT
Bid to censor violent films fails
Julian Brazier
Mr Brazier said some films glamorised sexual violence
A Conservative MP has failed in his bid to increase censorship of video games and films containing extreme violence.

Julian Brazier's plan would have allowed more appeals against British Board of Film Classification rulings.

He argued standards had been "watered down" and explicit films and games were fuelling a "tide of violence".

He was supported by several Tory and Labour MPs, but both front benches opposed it. The Lib Dems said it gave MPs "undue influence" over censorship.

Mr Brazier's private member's bill failed when the debate ran out of time. Private member's bills allow individual MPs to introduce legislation on a subject of their choice.

Allowing appeals

He wanted MPs to have more of a say over the BBFC's membership and guidelines, which he argued had been "progressively liberalised" and standards reduced, particularly in regard to knife crime.

He also wanted a change to the system that currently only allows appeals against BBFC classifications, or decisions to cut footage, by the entertainment industry.

The growth in violent offences is linked to the growing availability in the media of extremely violent and explicitly sexual material
Julian Brazier

Mr Brazier's plan would have allowed an independent jury to reverse a ruling, if 50 MPs signed a Commons motion - even after the film or game was released.

During a Commons debate, he cited the example of a previously banned video - SS Experiment Camp - which was re-examined by the BBFC and released in 2005.

"The film shows in voyeuristic detail women being tortured to death by SS camp guards," he said.

'Glamorising rape'

Another film, Irreversible, featured a nine-minute rape scene he said, adding: "If this is not glamorising rape then it is difficult to imagine what would be."

He told MPs: "The growth in violent offences is linked to the growing availability in the media of extremely violent and explicitly sexual material."

I believe the proposals contained within this Bill would give politicians an undue and dangerous influence over these sorts of issues
Don Foster
Lib Dems

His bill was supported by Labour MP Keith Vaz, who represents a seat in Leicester where the mother of murdered 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah blamed his killer's obsession with the Manhunt video game - a view not supported by the trial judge.

Mr Vaz said video games were different from films because they were "interactive".

"When they play with these things they are able to interact, they can shoot people, they can kill people, they can rape women and that's what is so wrong about the situation we have at the moment," he said.

Good job

Another Labour MP, Stephen Pound, said there was a danger that in extremely violent films "the sanctity of life becomes diluted", particularly when dealing with the young and impressionable. But Conservative MP John Whittingdale dismissed SS Experiment Camp as "pretty tasteless and offensive" but said scenes of sex and violence were mild compared to many mainstream films.

Mr Brazier said extremely violent material contributed towards attacks

He said Mr Brazier's bill "could do damage to the film industry" and that the BBFC largely did "a reasonably good job".

Lib Dem spokesman Don Foster suggested if MPs were to start signing a motion to get a title banned "sales would absolutely rocket".

"I believe the proposals contained within this Bill would give politicians an undue and dangerous influence over these sorts of issues," he added.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said the BBFC, while not getting it right every time did an "extremely good job in incredibly difficult circumstances".

She said the government had responded to concerns by asking Dr Tanya Byron to review whether more regulation to protect children was needed - due to report back next month.

Urging MPs to await that report next month, she said legislation would not be effective on its own. Parents, internet service providers and others would also have to take responsibility. She was still speaking as time ran out at 1430 GMT and the bill now stands no chance of becoming law.

On Friday, the BBFC rejected the serial killer film Murder Set Pieces amid concerns about violent sexual scenes - the ruling means it cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK.

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