The MP for North East Somerset, Jacob Rees-Mogg said that those council officials with the power to issue fines for minor infractions should have to wear blower hats to be easily identified, and avoided, by the public. This is in response to a
plan under way in the London boroughs which may grant town hall officials the power to force offenders of minor misdemeanours to turn over their personal details so that they can be charged a fine.
At the moment, council officials can already issue these fines, but there is no requirement for the accused to hand over their personal details, leaving officials with no means of following up. A bill in Parliament, the London Local Authorities
Bill, would make it a criminal offence for the accused to refuse to hand over their information when stopped by these officials.
This bill is a blatant snub of civil liberties. Policing should be left to the police, and Big Brother Watch has said repeatedly that granting police powers to civilians is shaky at best. They show a worrying disregard for due process and the
quick, cheap and dirty training many of these officials receive fails to give them a clear knowledge and understanding of the law (or very minor offences) they so vigorously enforce on the streets of their communities.
And are there ramifications for misusing or abusing these powers? In reality, aside from clear guidance and strict training, there is very little that can protect the public from abuses of these powers.
Repressive laws against religious insult at football matches in Scotland have been passed after the Scottish government rejected complaints the rules were unworkable.
The offensive behaviour bill was pushed through Holyrood using the Scottish National party's overall majority. The bill was opposed by all other parties and attracted widespread criticism from fans, clubs and the Church of Scotland.
Holyrood's four opposition parties, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Tories and the Scottish Green party, backed by the independent MSP Margo Macdonald, issued a joint statement accusing ministers of railroading the Scottish parliament:
It is of real regret that the first piece of legislation passed by this new parliament has been railroaded through by the SNP. The SNP has used its majority to force through a bad law that risks doing more harm than good. It sets a worrying
precedent for this parliament.
The new measures introduce two new offences of inciting religious, racial or other forms of hatred in public or on the internet, which will be punishable by up to five years in jail. The offences will cover football grounds, public places
and pubs and clubs.
Allison McInnes, the Scottish Liberal Democrats' justice spokeswoman, said the government was creating two new criminal offences without any kind of consensus :
They are unable to answer basic questions about how the law will be enforced or present evidence as to why it is needed. They can provide only the vaguest assurances that it will not impact people's freedom of speech.
BBC director general Mark Thompson defended Jeremy Clarkson to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee. He said that Clarkson's comments were said entirely in jest and were not intended to be taken seriously and that he
would not be sacked.
Challenged by committee member Jim Sheridan to sack Clarkson, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said: Were we to sack him for saying something pretty stupid that would set precedents that mean a lot of people would never get to broadcast.
Thompson said: Although clearly he's a polarising figure for the BBC, there are many millions of people who enjoy and support Jeremy Clarkson. That has to be balanced against a couple of flippant remarks in one programme.
The BBC has published a response to complaints about Jeremy Clarkson's jolly gape that strikers should be shot. The BBC said:
As has now been widely reported, we had many complaints about a number of Jeremy Clarkson's comments on the show. The One Show is a live topical programme which often reflects the day's talking points. Usually we get it right, but on this
occasion we feel the item wasn't perfectly judged.
The presenters apologised at the end of the programme to viewers who were offended by his comments and the BBC and Jeremy would like to apologise for any offence caused. Jeremy has said: I didn't for a moment intend these remarks to be taken
seriously -- as I believe is clear if they're seen in context. If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I'm quite happy to apologise for it alongside them.
Meanwhile the Labour MP of Kingston Upon Hull East, Karl Turner, has proposed an
early day motion whingeing about Clarkson as follows:
That this House condemns the disgraceful and disgusting remarks made by Jeremy Clarkson on the BBC; notes that his comments have been criticised by thousands of licence payers, hon. Members and unions; believes that his remarks were inflammatory
and have left workers and their children shocked and upset; further believes that high profile TV presenters have influence on their audience and should act with responsibility at all times; calls on the Government to give a full response; and
urges the BBC Director General to commence disciplinary proceedings.
Business of the House
House of Commons
1st December 2011
Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour)
Could we have a debate next week about the harmful effects of violent video games? Last week, the university of Indiana published research that showed that regularly playing those games resulted in physical changes in the brain. At a time when
parents are thinking of purchasing video games for Christmas, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it is important to hold a debate on this matter? This is not about censorship---it is about protecting our children.
George Young (Leader of the House of Commons, House of Commons; North West Hampshire, Conservative)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, and I know that this is an issue that he has pursued with vigour for some time. I cannot promise a debate next week. Home Office questions, I think, will be held on 12 December, but in the meantime I
will draw his concern to the attention of the Home Secretary.
Last week Game Politics pointed out that the research cited was in fact supported by the Center for Successful Parenting, Indiana. This is in fact a nutter group with a website that is designed for parents to learn about the negative side
effects of violent video. See
article about the cited research from
Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom has presented a 45,000 signature petition to Schools Minister Nick Gibb.
Leadsom is campaigning against explicit sex education in primary schools and feels that the BBFC are ideally placed to provide their censorship expertise to sex education materials. She said:
The Department for Education is currently drafting new guidelines for schools on sex and relationship education (SRE) and I would like to see a form of independent classification of the material used. The British Board of Film Classification
(BBFC) has been rating films for 99 years and seems to be well placed to assess material, and I am sure that this would give worried parents some peace of mind in knowing what their children were seeing.
To see some of the images being shown to very young children in our primary schools was genuinely shocking.
After presenting the petition, Leadsom had a meeting with Gibb and a number of Northamptonshire parents. I know the Minister takes this matter very seriously and I hope he will take on board my idea of allowing the BBFC to age rate material
, she said.
Tom Watson gamely proposes to amend the Vaz EDM by replacing it entirely.
EDM Amendment 2427A1 - CALL OF DUTY 3
Primary sponsor: Tom Watson
Sponsors: Julian Huppert, Kerry McCarthy
That this House notes:
that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) gave the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 an 18 classification, noting that 'the game neither draws upon nor resembles real terrorist attacks on the underground;
further believes that the game has an excellent user interface and challenges the gamers' dexterity as well as collaborative skills in an outline setting; and
encourages the BBFC to uphold the opinion of the public that whilst the content of video games may be unsettling or upsetting to some, adults should be free to choose their own entertainment in the absence of legal issues or material which
raises a risk or harm.
Scottish football fans could soon be arrested for singing what the authorities deem offensive or sectarian songs at football game. The repressive new legislation has led to suggestions that fans could face prosecution for singing the
national anthem or crossing themselves.
The SNP government has been accused of using its substantial majority to steamroller through the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication Scotland Bill, despite widespread concerns from opposition parties and bodies
outside Holyrood. But the measures are backed by the police and prosecution chiefs.
Ministers rejected a series of opposition amendments aimed at refining the laws and the bill is now expected to complete its third stage reading by parliament in mid-December. It should become law by mid-January.
Patrick Harvie, the leader of the Green Party, claimed the SNP has forced the measures through parliament, ignoring a growing chorus of objections. This prompted him to claim that the measures had been steamrollered through parliament. Ministers are stubbornly determined to force it through in the teeth of consistent and reasoned opposition from all quarters, inside and outside parliament,
The freedom of expression clause was agreed though which covers communications, such as messages sent over the internet, which may contain insults or abuse of religious beliefs. But it does not cover online messages which are threatening or
likely to cause public disorder. Neither does it apply to sectarian or threatening behaviour at and around football matches. Another change made by the committee widens part of the bill to include people not necessarily travelling to a football
Mike Weatherly is the Tory MP for Hove who has a bee in the bonnet about sport, music and religion DVDs that are exempt from BBFC classification.
It seems that he would prefer that makers of these mostly benign videos to be saddled with the inevitably high cost of classification just so that a handful of titles identified by nutters could be given a 15 or 18 certificate. Exactly the sort
of control freakery and expensive thinking that has suffocated western enterprise and that is now making us all poor.
Back in November 2010, Weatherly enquired in Parliament about exempt DVDs. During Parliamentary Questions he asked Ed Vaizey, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport
How many DVDs that were exempt from classification were released in (a) 2007, (b) 2008 and (c) 2009.
He received the bleedin' obvious answer
The Department does not hold the information requested.
No data are recorded for films released on DVD which are exempt from classification, as this exemption renders them outside of any administrative process.
Anyway Weatherley has been following up at the BBFC and he rather simplistically reports on his progress:
Mike has met with executives at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to gain a better understanding of the regulator and its work.
Mike was invited to the headquarters of the BBFC in central London and given a tour of the building whilst discussing the exempt category which is not actually classified by the BBFC. Videos which are designed to educate, inform or
instruct or which are concerned with music, sport or religion are exempt from classification unless they contain certain extreme content. Mike was shocked though by some of the material that is in fact exempt from classification.
Commenting, Mike said: It was fascinating to see first-hand the work that BBFC undertakes and having met with representatives before, I was aware of the important work that they do. It was a very informative visit and I was given a
demonstration of the classification process. I particularly look forward to working with the BBFC in the future to help solve the exemption gap.
MP Heidi Alexander has launched a private members bill allowing police to censor social media videos that incite violence. She has been in the forefront of attacks against social media since the riots in August.
MPs have now backed a call for police to be given censorship powers to block or take down YouTube videos that could incite violence. MPs voted in favour of allowing Alexander to bring forward her bill, which will receive a second reading in
March. However, the proposals are unlikely to become law without government support.
Alexander told MPs:
I am introducing this bill because I am appalled by the proliferation of online videos which glorify gangs and serious youth violence.
Police, via the courts and internet service providers, need to be given explicit power to get these videos taken down or access to them blocked.
I recognise the policing of the internet is always going to be incredibly difficult but unless we start to grapple with the online manifestation of gangs, I question our ability to really tackle the problem
We can talk about gang injunctions all we like, and yes, there may be a need to stop a certain individual or group coming into a certain area at a certain time, but don't we too need to recognise that the same individual may be causing an equal
amount of fear by his or her actions sat on a computer at home, or spreading these vile videos through social networking sites?
Similar powers already exist to take down or block access to websites that could incite racial hatred or feature extremist material.
censorial laws to targeting sectarianism in football are the stuff of a tinpot dictatorship , opposition MSPs have told ministers.
In a debate at Holyrood, they said they could not support the Scottish Government because it had failed to make the case for the legislation.
Labour back-bencher Neil Findlay derided a recent comedy evidence session from justice minister Roseanna Cunningham, who appeared to indicate that singing God Save the Queen or making the sign of the cross could, in some cases, lead to
fans being arrested. He said:
This is like some tinpot dictatorship where the national anthem could be outlawed and carrying out a symbolic Christian act could have you in the pokey. When the law is beyond satire, the law is an ass.
Fellow Labour MSP Michael McMahon called the bill:
the most illiberal legislation ever put before this parliament.
When the First Minister claims that he wants to stop people reliving 1690 and 1916 on our streets, I ask him to reflect on this glib statement and ask himself how prepared would he be to consign William Wallace in 1297 or Robert the Bruce in
1314 to the dustbin of history and set his culture and heritage aside because it may give offence to someone.
Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green and independent MSPs released a joint statement last night, saying they had come together to send the strongest message possible to the government, asking it not to use its majority to force
through the flawed legislation .
The bill passed to its second stage after receiving narrow backing from the justice committee.
Oral Answers to Questions, Culture, Media and Sport, 3rd November 2011
Andrea Leadsom took the opportunity of parliamentary questions to badger the government about ISP blocking for 'unsuitable' sites.
Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire, Conservative):
Has the Minister seen a demonstration of TalkTalk's HomeSafe system, which enables families to keep their children safe not only from internet porn, but from sites on suicide and on bomb-making, and all sorts of unsuitable sites? Does he agree
that unless internet service providers do more to enable family-friendly systems to protect children, the Government will have to legislate?
Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative):
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I have seen the TalkTalk system. I have said to ISPs again and again that I prefer self-regulation to legislation, but the mood of the House is for action and legislation. This is not about censorship, but
about giving families the tools to protect their children from inappropriate content, and we rely on them to come up with solutions.
S4C has been accused of courting viewers of trash TV after it emerged the Welsh-language channel was planning a documentary about a hardcore pornography actress.
In a list of forthcoming commissions posted on its website, the broadcaster includes a show about Llanelli-born porn star Sophie Dee, who is now based in California. Ms Dee has appeared in 300 pornographic films and has won several industry
However this fine piece of programming has been questioned by miserable politicians.
Welsh Labour AM Jenny Rathbone said:
It seems a pretty desperate move by S4C to plan to commission tasteless shows such as these. I'm sure S4C's viewers do not want to see Wales' own channel spiral into trash television programming.
Suzy Davies, the Shadow Minister for Welsh Language and Culture, said:
S4C has a public service obligation to provide comprehensive programming that should, at times, be thought-provoking and questioning. However, many viewers will rightly question whether documentaries about hardcore pornography, funded by
taxpayers, are a priority for public interest and likely to appeal to a wide audience.
Plaid Cymru Heritage spokeswoman Bethan Jenkins said:
I don't know yet what kind of film S4C is planning to make. If it is designed to be titillating, a kind of lad's mag approach, then that would be a complete waste of public money. On the other hand, a serious- minded, journalistic inquiry into
the adult entertainment industry is well within the remit of a channel committed to providing a quality view of the world.
But kudos to Welsh Liberal Democrat Heritage spokesman Peter Black who said:
My view is that it is not the role of politicians to dictate to TV companies what programmes they choose to air. S4C is heavily regulated and no doubt anybody who takes offence at this programme will take advantage of that to make complaints to
the appropriate body.
An S4C spokesman said:
We have noted clearly in our Vision 2012 our aim to provide interesting, diverse and exciting programmes and content, which explore and reflect all aspects of Welsh life. We will offer content that is original, inventive and attractive. At times
we will offer material that is challenging and contemporary, and this means that we will have to push the boundaries and take risks.
Parliamentary task force examines hate speech on the internet
See article from computeractive.co.uk
A UK Government Task Force is meeting to discuss ways of combating the growing supposed problem of people publishing bigoted statements on websites.
The Internet Hate Speech Task Force hearing follows a meeting attended by MPs and ISPs. At that discussion, Israel's Minister of Public Affairs and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein claimed: The issue of hate on the internet needs greater
attention given its scope and potential for harm.!
The task force is hosted by John Mann MP and was set up by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA). It will look at the nature and scope of internet hate. This will include racism, religious hate speech, misogyny and
The types of hate speech that are appearing on the internet will be examined as will the various online media through which it appears. The hearing will also highlight the impact that internet hate can have, including its role in fostering hate
crimes, and it will include testimonies from experts and witnesses.
Further hearings will be scheduled by the Task Force and a report containing recommendations is due in late 2012
Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom has repeated her call for sex education books to be classified by the BBFC.
Leadsom claims some of the material being taught to children as young as five is extraordinarily inappropriate . She wants books and videos used for sex education to be given a rating by the British Board of Film Classification before they
are used in schools.
During a Westminster Hall debate, Leadsom said many adults were horrified when they found out what children were being taught about sex. She said:
I've seen cartoons of two people engaged in sexual activities with the caption 'Here are some ways mummies and daddies fit together', others depicting two cartoon characters locked in an intimate embrace, accompanied by a vivid
explanation, using sexual terminology of the act of intercourse.
As well as cartoons I've been shown a video of two people engaged in intercourse, with a child's voice over the top, saying, 'it looks like they're having fun'.
She also wants the law changed so that parents actively have to opt in to sex lessons, rather than opt out , as is currently the case if they have objections.
Schools minister, Nick Gibb, said all sex education material used in state schools was scrutinised to ensure it set the right tone . The education secretary had set out statutory guidelines for schools and councils to follow, he added,
which would ensure that inappropriate content would not be used.
Comment: Parental Guidance
Perhaps a Sex Ed Parental Guidance certificate would read:
Suitable for children of all ages. Children are advised to consider whether the material may upset sensitive parents before showing it to them.
Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection
Thursday, 26th January 2012, Central London
This seminar will bring together key perspectives from policymakers, interest groups and businesses on next steps for enabling children to surf the web, access online communities and partake in culturally rich content without exposure to age
restricted products, explicit content and potential personal danger.
It is scheduled following the report to Ministers of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection - delegates will assess the practical options for providing what the Culture Secretary has called an active choice about using
parental controls, such as age verification tools, website monitoring and methods of filtering content used by online services - and review next steps for policy.
Claire Perry MP, Chair, Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection has kindly agreed to deliver a keynote address at this seminar.
Other confirmed speakers include:
Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive Officer, Internet Watch Foundation
Peter Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, The Authority for Television On-Demand (ATVOD)
David Miles, Director, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Family Online Safety Institute
Dr Mike Short, Vice President, Telefo'nica O2 Europe.
Harriet Harman has had a whinge against Page 3 girls, telling Sky Newsthat tabloid pictures of topless females are not the right thing for women in the 21st century .
Labour's deputy leader said:
I'm not saying that we should ban it. ..BUT.. .I think that women in the 21st century who are going out to work, who are bringing up their children, who are playing a full role in public life, I think that the idea that women are sex
objects to be posing in their knickers to be leered at by men in a national newspaper - I don't think that that's the right thing for women in the 21st century.
Perhaps the 21st century will one day become known as the Miserable Century. When for one reason or another, all pleasures in life were frowned upon. And when everything ended up banned, nobody could make any money, and the western world went
down the pan.