Moves to liberalise the sex trade and sales of pornography have caused a rift among senior Liberal Democrats in the run up to their annual conference.
The proposals could be rejected after the party's leadership stepped in to block a motion calling for changes in the law. A similar debate and other controversial motions were shelved last year following the 11 September terror
But the Young Liberal Democrats wanted to renew their call at this year's Brighton gathering for the minimum age for buying top-shelf magazines and sex videos to be reduced from 18 to 16, and for a more mature attitude to pornography.
The conference will also hear demands for the penalties to be toughened up for non-consensual, exploitative pornography, including child pornography.
One Liberal Democrat MP said: "It is time for a modern approach to pornography. It is about having a sensible attitude that says that if it exploits children or is violent the penalties should be greater. But if it is consenting
adults, we should not be trying to limit enjoyment of it. This is the view that most people take on this. So if it's acceptable, why be prudish about it?
Party sources said the increase in pornography on the internet and the loosening of trade barriers in Europe meant the subject had to be seen in a more global context. One said: There is an argument for a
wider consensus on the regulation of pornography. We have got to the point where Britain's pornography laws have been, for whatever reason, old fashioned and unwilling to face up to the reality of what is happening in terms of technological advances
and in different states in Europe. It may be time to actually have this debate.
But Simon Hughes, the party's home affairs spokesman who will answer the debate, is to urge delegates to refer the issue back for further work to be done on proposals. I think it does not properly address all the issues and
concerns, and I don't think we should go into views on these things without having done the work properly, The motion is misleading in places, weak in places and in some part unacceptable to a sufficient group in the party, and I am not comfortable
about it being agreed as it is at the moment . (Why is it that as soon as a politician is given a role to do with home affairs they have to transform into a reactionary, rightwing, holier than thou shit)
The shameful Hughes feels that the issue must be seen in the context of reforms to sexual offences legislation, the consultation paper on communications and the media and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. He said there was a clear
link between pornography and violence that had to be addressed. It is clearly the case that people's behaviour doesn't settle until they are in their 20s and therefore we would not want to leap speedily.
Thanks to Peter for forwarding me his email query to Hughes. We are all awaiting his response.
In a recent article in The Independent (25th August) regarding the Liberal Democrat policy on the sex trade and pornography, I was appalled to read the following sentence attributed to you:
He said there was a clear link between pornography and violence that had to be addressed.
As someone with a particular (non-commercial) interest in issues of censorship and obscenity, I have to tell you that there is no proven link between pornography and violence.
I'm disappointed that you appear to be against a review of our laws which are completely out of line with the rest of Europe.
Most of all, however, I'm disturbed that you appear to have accepted the anti-pornography propaganda that true liberals have been fighting for generations...