UK Parliament Watch

 2007



31st December   

Comment: Unnecessary...

Brazier's BBFC accountability bill
Link Here  full story: BBFC Parliamentary Accountability...Julian Brazier BBFC Bill

Julian Brazier Regarding Brazier's BBFC Accountability bill, I actually emailed the BBFC about this, asking if they were going to respond and take up issue with him over this.

Whilst they didn't go into detail, saying they would be responding "in due course", I did get the impression that they didn't seem too worried. Letting slip that they didn't think the bill had much support (he has tried this once before after all).

The feelings I've been getting from other forums is that as the BBFC is already accountable to the government under the VRA, and that if the government really wanted to they could simply designate a different censorship body for home video and computer games other than the BBFC, then it is not likely this bill will get through as its unnecessary.

 

30th December   

Sex Supermarket...

Parliamentary question to the Solicitor General re prostitution
Link Here

House of Commons logo Questions to the Solicitor General

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): What her policy is on the prosecution of offences associated with prostitution and kerb crawling.

The Solicitor-General (Vera Baird): Our policy is to consider alternatives to prosecution to help prostitutes to find a route out of prostitution while emphasising the need to arrest and prosecute kerb crawlers. That is part of a strategy to focus enforcement action on the purchasers who create the demand.

Tony Lloyd: I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that answer, which I find reassuring. In areas such as my constituency, where there are two locations where street prostitution is known, people find kerb crawlers to be the nuisance. Many people are sympathetic to the view that driving prostitutes further underground puts women who are already at risk at even greater risk. Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that the Government’s strategy is not to make the prostitute’s position even more dangerous?

The Solicitor-General: I can confirm that. I compliment my hon. Friend for taking a long interest in the care of women in prostitution in the two areas of his constituency. I completely agree that crackdowns on kerb crawlers must be carried out in conjunction with diverting prostitutes through appropriate local projects. I am impressed by the strategy employed in my area of Cleveland, where referral workers are available in custody suites and work closely with police and vice units to ensure that women who are stopped by the police can be referred to appropriate services straight away.

Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Next year, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), will visit Sweden and the Netherlands to look at measures introduced to tackle the demand side of the prostitution equation. Will the Solicitor-General consider accompanying him?

The Solicitor-General: I intend to go with my hon. Friend to Sweden to look at those measures and to do the best comparative study that we can, so that we can fully inform ourselves. The hon. Gentleman was on the Committee that considered the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, so he will have heard my hon. Friend announce that we will review the way in which we tackle demand to see whether we need to be tougher. That trip and other research will feed into the review.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Has my hon. and learned Friend seen the research report entitled “It’s just like going to the supermarket”? It suggests that our interventions with men who buy sex are not particularly effective, and that it would be more effective to reduce the normalisation of the commercialisation of sexual relationships that underpins those men’s belief that they are entitled to buy women’s bodies.

The Solicitor-General: Yes, I have seen that research. Indeed, I attended the launch in Whitechapel. The report contains interviews with a range of different men who use prostitutes. At times during their interviews, they referred to it as being just like going to the supermarket to buy any other commodity. They said that they would not be deterred if it were a criminal offence, but different research suggests that they would be. We must see what the best approaches are, and that is why we are reviewing demand.

 

28th December   

Censorial MPs Don't Like being Censored...

And for once oppose censorship
Link Here  full story: Gay Hate Law in the UK...Christian MPs and ban on anti gay speech

CCFON logo A group of nutter MPs has tabled an amendment designed to ensure that homophobic Christians can continue to express their views on gay people.

Devout Roman Catholics Ann Widdecombe and Jim Dobbin are among the MPs attempting to amend the government's proposal to make incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation a criminal offence.

Christian Concern for our Nation, a pressure group which attempts to stand up against a tide of unChristian legal and political changes in the United Kingdom, is urging its supporters to pressure MPs into supporting the new amendment.

Stonewall, the gay equality organisation, have been giving evidence to parliament's  scrutinising committee about the sort of incitement to homophobic murder and hatred that goes unchallenged. Chief executive Ben Summerskill quoted extensively from the homophobic lyrics of dancehall star Beenie Man and others to demonstrate the nature of their comments about gay men and lesbians.

Summerskill rejected concerns that a law banning incitement to religious hatred would be used to silence the voices of religious people who regard homosexuality as a sin: We are crystal clear that people are perfectly entitled to express their religious views. We are also crystal clear that the temperate expression of religious views should not be covered by the legislation. One might also want to look at the context in which any expression is made that people should be killed or put to death because they are homosexual.

The homophobic incitement provisions were later passed by the whole committee, and none of the Tory MPs voted against them.

The new amendment from Christian MPs reads:

Nothing in this part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion of, criticism of or expressions of antipathy towards, conduct relating to a particular sexual orientation, or urging persons of a particular sexual orientation to refrain from or modify conduct relating to that orientation.

Among the MPs asking for the right to show antipathy towards their gay constituents are: Lib Dems Colin Breed (South East Cornwall) and Alan Beith (Berwick Upon Tweed); Conservatives Philip Hollobone (Kettering) and Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and the Weald); and Labour MPs David Taylor (North West Leicestershire) and Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton).

 

23rd December   

Update: New Labour New Offence...

More bollox targeting guys buying sex
Link Here

New Lanour, New Prison The usual Labour nutters have proposed a typically mean minded amendment to the Criminal Injustice Bill currently passing through parliament.

Fiona Mactaggart
Barry Gardiner
Denis MacShane

To move the following Clause:

  1. A local authority may designate any part of its area as a zone of safety.
     
  2. A chief officer of police may, with the approval of the Secretary of State, designate any area as a zone of safety.
     
  3. The Secretary of State may approve a designation under subsection (2) if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the incidence of prostitution in the proposed zone has contributed to an increase in criminality in the locality.
     
  4. It, in a zone of safety, a person (A):
    (a) intentionally obtains for himself the sexual services of another person (B),
    and (b) before obtaining those services, has made or promised payment for those services to B or a third person, or knows that another person has made or promised such a payment, the local authority or the chief officer of police may apply to a magistrates’ court for an order forbidding A from doing those things again anywhere.
     
  5. In subsection (4)(b) “payment” means any financial advantage, including the discharge of an obligation to pay or the provision of goods and services (including sexual services) gratuitously or at a discount.
     
  6. The Secretary of State may by regulations made such supplementary provision about orders under subsection (4) as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
     
  7. Regulations under subsection (6) are to be made by statutory instrument and are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
     
  8. A person who is the subject of an order under subsection (4) and who fails to comply with the terms of that order is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale or to a community punishment order or to both.’.

 

20th December   

Update: Extreme Hopes...

Harry Cohen's amendments to extreme porn bill re-submitted
Link Here

House of Commons Harry Cohen has re-submitted his amendments to the Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill Part 7 Criminal Law:

Page 65, line 17 [Clause 94], leave out ‘appears to have’ and insert ‘has’.
Page 65, line 20 [Clause 94], leave out ‘appears to have’ and insert ‘has’.
Page 65, line 27 [Clause 94], leave out ‘it appears that’.
Page 65, line 33 [Clause 94], leave out from ‘which’ to end and insert ‘results in a person’s death or a life-threatening injury,’.
Page 65, line 34 [Clause 94], leave out from first ‘in’ to end of line.
Page 65, line 36 [Clause 94], leave out ‘or appears to involve’.
Page 65, line 38 [Clause 94], leave out ‘or appearing to perform’.
Page 65, line 40 [Clause 94], leave out ‘or appears to be’.

Write to your own MP and ask them to support these amendments

These amendments would ensure that people wouldn't be prosecuted for possessing legally produced images with staged violence.

Forum members have commented that hopefully these amendments may have been accepted by bill sponsors after some heavyweight opposition and concerns about human rights compatibility

 

14th December   

Harmful Inquiry...

Harmful Content On The Internet And In Video Games:
Link Here  full story: Harmful Content...Parliament Inquiry: Internet And In Video Games:

CMS Committee meeting The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has announced a new inquiry into the potential risks from harmful material on the Internet and in video games, with the following terms of reference:

The benefits and opportunities offered to consumers, including children and young people, and the economy by technologies such as the Internet, video games and mobile phones.

The potential risks to consumers, including children and young people, from exposure to harmful content on the Internet or in video games. The Committee is particularly interested in the potential risks posed by:

  • Cyber bullying
  • user generated content, including content that glorifies guns and gang violence
  • the availability of personal information on social networking sites
  • content that incites racial hatred, extremism or terrorism
  • content that exhibits extreme pornography or violence

The tools available to consumers and industry to protect people from potentially harmful content on the Internet and in video games.

The effectiveness of the existing regulatory regime in helping to manage the potential risks from harmful content on the Internet and in video games.


The Committee will accept as submissions (or as part of submissions) responses to the Byron Review of children and new technology.

The Committee, however, intends that its inquiry be broader in scope than the Byron Review as the Committee will examine the impact of content on consumers in general, rather than focusing solely on the impact on children and young people.

It is expected that oral evidence sessions will be held in February and March 2008.

Written submissions are invited from interested parties; these should be sent to Daniel Dyball, Committee Specialist, at the address below by Wednesday 30 January 2008 .

Our strong preference is for submissions to be in Word or rich text format (not as a PDF document) and sent by e-mail to cmscom@parliament.uk, although letters will also be accepted. Submissions sent by post should be sent to Daniel Dyball, Committee Specialist, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA. Please include a contact name, postal address and telephone number in the body of the e-mail or in the letter.

 

7th December   

Update: Censors Held to Account by Nutters...

Brazier presents his BBFC accountability bill to parliament
Link Here  full story: BBFC Parliamentary Accountability...Julian Brazier BBFC Bill

Julian Brazier Braziers bill was presented Wednesday:

British Board of Film Classification (Accountability to Parliament and Appeals)

Mr. Julian Brazier, supported by Mr. John Gummer, Keith Vaz, Miss Ann Widdecombe, Mr. Jim Hood, Stephen Pound, Mr. John Hayes, Mr. Lindsay Hoyle, Mrs. Nadine Dorries, Jim Dobbin, Mr. David Burrowes and Mr. Greg Hands, presented a Bill to make provision for parliamentary scrutiny of senior appointments to the British Board of Film Classification and of guidelines produced by it; to establish a body with powers to hear appeals against the release of videos and DVDs and the classification of works in prescribed circumstances; to make provision about penalties for the distribution of illegal works; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 29 February, and to be printed.


Now might be the time to start speaking out against this.

 

6th December   

Update: Taking Brazier Seriously...

ELSPA requests meeting with Brazier
Link Here  full story: BBFC Parliamentary Accountability...Julian Brazier BBFC Bill

Julian Brazier The computer games trade group, Entertainment and Leisure Software Publisher's Association (ELSPA) has responded to a private member's bill presented by Julian Brazier MP.

This Bill highlights the importance of the classification of the visual entertainment industry, ELSPA said in a statement: The correct classification of computer games made for adult consumption - covered by the BBFC - is of the utmost importance to the computer games industry.

ELSPA is requesting a meeting with Brazier to ensure that the bill takes their concerns into account.

 

6th December   

Increased Risk of Harmful Internet Busybodies...

Another inquiry into harmful material on the internet
Link Here  full story: Harmful Content...Parliament Inquiry: Internet And In Video Games:

CMS Committee meeting The UK parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Committee has announced a new inquiry into the potential risks from harmful material on the Internet and in videogames.

The CMS Committee wants to consider the benefits and opportunities offered to consumers, including children and young people, and the economy by technologies such as the Internet, videogames and mobile phones.

At the same time, it will look at potential risks to consumers from exposure to harmful content on the Internet or in videogames, considering the "effectiveness of the existing regulatory regime" in helping to manage the potential risks.

The committee is particularly interested in the potential risks posed by "cyberbullying" according to a statement calling for written submissions from interested parties.

While the CMS Committee will accept responses to the Byron Review, it intends that its inquiry be broader in scope as it will examine the impact of content on consumers in general, rather than focusing solely on the impact on children and young people.

Submissions are due by the end of January, with oral evidence sessions planned for February and March of 2008.

The inquiry was first mentioned in August 2007 after a series of YouTube videos highlighting youth violence:

John Whittingdale, the chairman of the cross-party Commons culture, media and sport select committee said he was "very interested" in an investigation into how to limit access to unsuitable material across the "new media".

Concern about the way gangs promote themselves by placing violent video clips - including scenes with guns -on the internet has grown since the shooting of Rhys Jones in Croxteth.

And again the inquiry was mentioned in the Telegraph today:

A teenager who boasted of his criminal exploits on Bebo has been handed an anti-social behaviour order. The 17-year-old, from Norfolk, posted comments and photographs on the social networking site glorifying his criminal exploits including drug-taking, according to the police.

Appearing at Norwich Youth Court, district judge Philip Browning banned the youth from using the internet to publish material that is "threatening or abusive" and "promotes criminal activity".

The court heard a police investigation found the boy had also made offensive comments against officers on his web page.

Fears that criminal gangs use internet sites to recruit members, organise fights and glorify their activities prompted MPs to launch an investigation into how to shield young people from such material.

 

5th December   

Comment: Brazier Hot Under the Collar...

For the People, our Politicians don't care
Link Here  full story: BBFC Parliamentary Accountability...Julian Brazier BBFC Bill

Julian Brazier Thanks to DarkAngel

Julian Brazier had something like the BBFC Parliamentary Accountability and Appeals Bill planned for a while now...

From 11th July 2006...

Based on article from julianbrazier.com

Julian Brazier, in a letter to Conservative Policy Coordinator Oliver Letwin, has urged that an incoming Conservative Government shall take action on the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). He is concerned that the BBFC is unreliable in preventing scenes of violence from reaching our screens at a suitable rating.

The letter read: In light of David Cameron’s recent comment: “Protection of childhood innocence against premature sexualisation is something worth fighting for I would like to make a submission to policy review. I recently had a look at the annual report of the British Board of Film Classification - I believe that it is time to shake them up. The failure to rate films suitably can lead to the portrayal of topics and themes in a way that may encourage their wider use.

The BBFC is good at controlling scenes of drug use. They allow only scenes of drug use that put a negative spin on recreational drug taking. Their stance on the portrayal of violence is pretty weak, however. Examples are films such as Green Street and The Football Factory , both rated ‘18’ and containing strong violence in the context of a popular past time. The BBFC says of The Football Factory : passed ‘18’ for the strong violence … that featured in its tale of violent men attempting to profit from criminal activities Is this a theme that we want anyone, let alone 18 year olds to be watching? With the hooligan culture already wrecking some British football matches, do we need such films?

I believe in a free country but incitement to violence is unacceptable. House of Wax , a ‘stalk and slash’ film, rated ‘15’, contains occasional moments of strong gore and violence but was limited to a ‘15’ rating due to the formulaic and predictable story, its fantastical setting, and its generally restrained treatment of the violence. Should the fact that it is in a fantastical setting be a reason for keeping any film as a ‘15’? Just because a film is not set in the current world does not mean that 15 and 16 year olds will not attempt to copy dangerous action sequences.

In some cases, previously cut material is being reinstated. For example: American Gothic which was originally cut in 1987; Not of this Earth , 1988; and the 1994 film Dracula’s Widow , all had scenes of sexualised violence reinstated. The reason given was, a lack of sufficient eroticised detail to raise concerns under either the current BBFC Guidelines or contemporary understanding of the relevant research and policy.

The BBFC should be reformed and its guidelines strengthened. In too many cases its censors appear to have been lacking the mettle to deal robustly with the film industry’s nastier output. Only one recent chairman has stood up to the film industry – Andreas Whittam Smith – and he lost some bad cases under the appeal arrangements. Surely there is scope for reform here.

Also.. it seems he's tried this once before, remember the controversy surrounding the film Crash in the late 90's? He tried to do the same thing then, but was dealt a suitable rebuttal by then chief censor James Ferman .

Thanks to IanG:

We are failing
All hope is fading
For our liberal democracy
Do we have Nazis
And religious halfwits
Filling all our Parliamentary seats?

Six hundred 'visions'
But no sound decisions
Just pass a new law every week
Try 'hate' prevention
Ninety day detention
Ban demonstrations and end Free Speech!

Five million spy cams
All up and down the land
But they can't stop kids shooting kids
I thoughthttp://economictimes.indiatimes.come
Nasty Handguns?
Now they blame games and films for all our 'sins'

The banks are empty
Lost all our pennies
In Brown's 'wonder' economy
Looks like its over
In mortgage foreclosure
For all that Sub Prime economic greed

So look ahead guys
And watch the headlines
For their next big knee-jerk thing
It could be Pros. on crack
Or school truants on smack
Whatever, its all just Spin!

Yeah we are sailing
With no bearing
On an ocean made of spin
You know the statute
Is in total disrepute
When Judges can't tell if you broke the thing!

Now where's our Rights gone
From that Constitution?
They were there before the 'Hand of Blair'
Don't we NEED them?
No Rights or Freedoms?
For the People, our Politicians don't care...!

For the People, our Politicians don't care...!
For the People, our Politicians don't care...!



2nd December    Nutter MPs Propose More Censorship...
   
And people will be safe to leave their homes after dark

Julian BrazierViolent computer games and films could face new curbs under plans to be put forward by a cross-party group of nutter MPs this week.

Legislation would give Parliament and the public a much greater say in the work of the censors, including a power to ban games blamed for causing copycat violence.

The new laws are aimed at violent games like Manhunt and the new film Eastern Promise.

The plans come amid mounting nutter concern about the level of violence passed by the BBFC and its supposed impact on society.

Tory MP Julian Brazier, who is piloting the move, said the existing system was too lax. Brazier said a “sizeable” number of unsuitable games and films were being allowed through. He added: We are facing social breakdown today on a scale which is unparalleled in modern times. We have had the UN declare Britain as the worst place in the world to bring up children and we have surveys showing a third of adults are afraid to leave their homes at night. We have to take steps to tackle the cultural changes which are driving so much of this. The system has become more lax as time has gone on – the failure rate has fallen to around one per cent and there are some extremely nasty games getting through.

The plans also have the backing of Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee.

Vaz said: There are some games on sale today that should not be on the shelves. Video games are getting more violent and, particularly now in the run-up to Christmas, there is a tendency for parents to buy the games their children want without checking their content. It is important to tighten up the regulations and I very much hope this attempt succeeds.


4th December  Update:  No Accounting for Nutters...
   
BBFC Parliamentary Accountability and Appeals Bill

Julian BrazierIt seems our friends at Mediawatch know a bit more about Julian Braziers plans:

The plans would give the home affairs committee a veto on appointments to the board of the BBFC. MPs would be given a say in drawing up the board's guidelines, and an independent appeals process would be set up to consider controversial cases.

The plans are included in Mr Brazier's BBFC Parliamentary Accountability and Appeals Bill, which will be published this week and is to be debated by MPs next month ... Any move to tighten controls on computer games will face fierce opposition from the games industry, which is worth more than Ł1billion to the British economy.

 

21st November    Playing Silly Games...
   
Keith Vaz continues his parliamentary questions

Keith VazNutter Labour MP Keith Vaz, long a critic of violent video games, yesterday posed a question in Parliament to the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 14th November.

Vaz (left) asked: How many (a) violent attacks and (b) murders that were judged to be linked in some way to violent video games occurred in the last 10 years…

Parliamentary Under-Secretary Vernon Coaker replied: The Home Office does not collect information on how many violent attacks and murders are judged to be linked to violent video games.

Based on an article from Game Politics see full article

Nutter Vaz obtained slightly more substantive replies when he moved on to Margaret Hodge, the Minister of State for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism on 19th November

Vaz: What representations [Hodge’s] Department received about the link between violent video games and the actions of their users in each of the last five years?

Hodge: Records of correspondence are only available for the last three years. Since December 2004, we have received no representations from groups concerned about a link between video games featuring violence and violent behaviour in real life. However, we have received correspondence from some individuals—often through their constituency Member of Parliament—who are concerned about a possible link.

In December 2004, we received two letters. In 2005, we received 12 letters. In 2006, we received 10 letters. And so far in 2007, we have received 16 letters, eight of which related to the announcement of the review led by Dr. Tanya Byron. This review is considering the effectiveness and adequacy of existing measures to help prevent children from being exposed to harmful or inappropriate material in video games and on the internet, and to make recommendations for improvements or additional action.


Vaz: What factors are taken into account before a video game is released for sale?

Hodge: Producers first test their game using the voluntary Pan European Games Information classification system. This reveals whether it must be submitted to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), under the terms of the Video Recordings Act.

It must go to the BBFC if it contains live action (rather than entirely computer generated images) or material that is grossly violent or sexual.

If submitted to the BBFC, it is considered and classified against the same publicly available guidelines used for cinema films or DVDs.


Paul Rowen [Lib Dem]: To ask [Hodge] whether she has plans to include upgrades for video games in a review of the classification of video games?

Hodge: Under the current classification system, a producer’s upgrade or addition to a video game means that it is a different product from a previously classified game. It therefore has to be classified separately.

Part of the review being led by Tanya Byron is to assess the effectiveness and adequacy of existing measures to help prevent children from being exposed to harmful or inappropriate material in video games and on the internet, and to make recommendations for improvements or additional action. The whole classification system for video games is being covered by this review.

 

25th October    Criminal Injustice...
   
Amendment proposed to make paying for sex illegal in Britain

House of Commons logoPhilip Hollobone (Conservative MP for Kettering) has proposed an new clause to be added to the already huge Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. Hollobone, a keen bell-ringer and former investment banker, proposes that paying for sex should be made a criminal offence.

Mr Philip Hollobone - Paying for sexual services (NC8)

To move the following Clause:

(1) A person (A) commits an offence if -
(a) he intentionally obtains for himself the sexual services of another person (B), and
(b) before obtaining those services, he has made or promised payment for those services
to B or third person, or knows that another person has made or promised such a payment.

(2) In this section "payment" means any financial advantage, including the discharge
of an obligation to pay or the provision of goods or services (including sexual
services) gratuitously or at a discount.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction,
to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the
statutory maximum or both.


29th November  Update:  Coaker Doesn't Buy It...
   
Clause criminalising paying for sex not adopted

House of Commons logoAn interesting discussion in the CJIB committee, where Philip Hollobone's amendment was debated. Vernon Coaker was unconvinced.

The question to make a new clause to the Bill was not put. Hollobone could introduce it again when it comes back for the third reading, but I guess we have seen the last of this particular attempt to criminalise P4P.

 

12th October    Parliamentary Bollox...
   
Summary of the 2nd Reading of the Dangerous Pictures Bill

House of Commons logoJackboots Straw introduced the Criminal Injustice & Immigration Bill and Nick Herbert responded for the Tories.

David Lepper got up and waxed lyrical about the various newspapers who’d helped in the campaign and the 50,000 signatures which had been raised. He described how extreme pornography had fuelled the fantasies of Graham Coutts. According to him the law didn’t go far enough, as he would like to see the sites themselves tackled at source.

Salter made an intervention and added that 180 signatures had been gathered from MPs against sites like necrobabes and hangingbitches. He pointed out that no new offence as such was being created as this material was already illegal to publish under existing OPA law.

Lepper continued by welcoming the Tory commitment to support this part of the bill. He proposed the passage of this law as a memorial to Jane Longhurst.

Paul Beresford stated that he’d like to see computer generated imagery included. Though it was fairly unclear if he was talking about child porn or extreme pornography by then.
As he seemed to begin on the latter subject but end on the former.

Martin Salter then rose and began demanding ‘Justice for Jane’. Coutts had confessed to beign an addict to violent porn. He repeated that the material was already illegal to publish in the UK. Women abroad were being ‘captured, raped and killed’ for sexual entertainment and profit.

The law was well-crafted, sensible and well thought through. He insisted this was not a new level of censorship. Weird people (sado masochists were belittled and their ‘munches’) could still go about their weird business. But there was no need for them to place their stuff on the net. He had no need to see it. Neither had the public. Those of an unbalanced mind who could be tipped over the edge don’t have a need to see it.

Ideally he’d like to see the law go further. He’d like to see blocking mechanisms. All PCs fitted with blocking mechanism, just like cars have seatbelts. He’d like to see the law go after the credit card companies whose business lubricates this vile trade. He then read out a letter from Liz Longhurst which stated that, had it not been for the corrupting effects of this sites Jane Longhurst would still be alive.

Charles Walker declared he was concerned. Suggesting that the restrictions were not as good as they could be. He stated that he’d been told that extracts from a film such as Hostel II could be deemed illegal under this law. Then it is madness that such a film should be on general release!

Harry Cohen very briefly touched on the issue before dedicating himself to his main subject of youth offenders. He said he was worried about the wording of ‘appears to be’, saying that this could catch all sorts of things within the law.

Evan Harris read out a previous statement by Liberty that extreme caution should be used in legislating morality. The state should justify its reasons for such law, especially as most of the material would be consensual. There was no evidence base for some of this material needing to be banned. If it were already illegal under OPA, why were the OPA definitions not being used, instead of these new and much wider definitions?


13th October  Update:  Extremely Thoughtful...
   
Dr Evan Harris contributes to parliamentary debate

House of Commons logoA few more details on the contribution to the 2nd Reading debate by Dr Evan Harris MP-Lib Dem:

Finally, on the issue of extreme pornography in part 6 of the Bill, as Liberty says in its briefing,

Extreme caution should be exercised when new criminal laws are imposed with the intention of imposing a subjective opinion on what is morally acceptable...the state should be required to provide justifications for legal restrictions on pornography, and to demonstrate that a proposed measure does not go further than is necessary.

Liberty goes on to say that it is vital that legitimate and undamaging behaviour is not unintentionally criminalised by carelessly drafted, over-broad criminal offences. It is concerned about the breadth of the proposed new offence, which might criminalise people who cause no harm to others and who possess pornographic material involving consensual participants.

Ministers have not provided an evidence base for some of the material that will be covered by the measure. Despite the eloquent testimony that Members have given about an individual case, if we do not have evidence that the material causes harm, it is right that the House should subject the proposals to close scrutiny. We must ask why, for example, the Obscene Publications Act definition is not being used, and why another definition, which, it is argued, is broader, is being used.

I can see no reference to compatibility with the Human Rights Act 1998 in the Government's explanatory memorandum, either; that will need to be tested. I would be grateful if, in his response, the Minister set out the evidence that justifies the measure. I understand that time is limited, so I shall leave my remarks there.

 

31st July 2007  Customs Caught Stealing Cars...

Adjournment Debate
House of Commons
26th July 2007


And are reported to parliament

From Hansard see full article

HM Revenue and Car Thieves logoKeith Vaz: Mr. Abder Razak Filali-Tomouh is a British citizen who went abroad for a weekend trip to the continent. He came back with the legal limit of tobacco in his car, with his whole family. There was no question of his being above the limit provided for by the Treasury and mentioned by the Customs and Excise people. He was within the limit, but he was stopped on his arrival and asked why he had brought that amount of tobacco in. He explained that it was for his use and that of his family for the foreseeable future. Having committed no crime, he found that the contents were impounded and that, worse for him, so was his car—the car in which he had driven to and from the country. He came back and lost everything, but no criminal offence was committed.

My constituent has not admitted to doing anything wrong and no evidence has been found that he has done anything wrong. He just had a lot of tobacco with him, but within the legal limit. This gentleman has lost his car and can no longer go about his normal business in Leicester. No real explanation has been given for what has happened, which, as I found out from a letter from the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, is standard practice—that is, that HM Revenue and Customs has the power to take people's cars away from them, even though no offence has been committed. That is draconian and bizarre. There ought to be a right of appeal, allowing people the opportunity to challenge the decision.

My constituent cannot afford legal representation—as we know, the Government have cut legal aid over the past few years for people in same position as my constituent—so his only recourse is to come to his Member of Parliament. I have written on his behalf, I have received a standard reply from the Exchequer Secretary and apparently that is the end of the matter—he cannot do anything to get his car back. We need to look at the situation, which would never have come to my attention but for my constituent coming to me at my ordinary weekly surgery, because I do not regard myself as an expert in such matters.

Please let us look at the law, and in particular at people's rights of appeal in such circumstances, especially for citizens who are not experts in that area of law and who become totally bewildered when one day they have a car to drive and the next they do not, and there seems to have been no court process in between. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will give me some reassurance that at the very least that case will be examined again and that at most we will examine the law to see whether we can exercise rights of appeal.

 

13th July   Internet Service Providers...
House Of Commons
Question to the Home Department
9th July 2007

   
Home Office logoProviding a censorship service

From Hansard see full article

Siân C. James (Swansea, East) (Lab): What work she is undertaking with internet service providers to ensure that they take a responsible approach to the contents they host.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): The Government continue to work with the internet industry to ensure that inappropriate material is not hosted in the UK and that there is a greater understanding of and clarity about when criminal offences have been committed on the internet.

As part of that approach, there is ongoing co-operation between internet service providers and law enforcement agencies. Most service providers have acceptable use policies in place that enable the removal of material from any site if it is illegal, distasteful or otherwise unacceptable.

Siân C. James: I thank the Home Secretary for her answer and congratulate her on her new role.

Given the huge increase in videos that depict scenes of violence, antisocial behaviour and criminal behaviour, which are being uploaded on to such internet services, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time for the police to have more powers when dealing with internet service providers who persist in the glorification of such acts?

Jacqui Smith: It is clearly unacceptable for such criminal acts to have been committed in the first place and then uploaded on to the sorts of sites that my hon. Friend mentioned. We need to look at the matter in two stages. First, criminal law already covers the first offence of the attack—whether it is assault, wounding, actual or grievous bodily harm or antisocial behaviour, which my hon. Friend mentioned.

Secondly, someone who records a violent offence could be criminally liable for uploading it either because they have committed the offence being filmed or because they were involved in planning it and would therefore be open to charges of conspiracy, incitement, aiding and abetting or being involved in a joint enterprise to commit the offence.

Uploading the video as well as taking part in the offence could be an aggravating factor when sentencing is considered. It is important to keep the matter under review and my hon. Friend has put her finger on something that concerns many people. However, the law is in place and we need to continue working with the police and internet service providers to ensure that we limit that unacceptable activity.

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): The Home Secretary will know that paedophiles regularly download some appalling child abuse videos and films on to their computers. Increasingly, they are encrypting the material so that the police cannot get access to it. The police have been waiting about five years for the statutory instrument relating to encryption and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. When will they get it?

Jacqui Smith: I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken a strong interest in the matter. Since coming into the Home Office, I have been impressed by the work of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the work that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) is leading. I understand that we are looking at that specific matter to bring it forward. I hope that we can get back to the hon. Gentleman with news on that soon.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to a substantial piece of work that Zentek Forensics in my constituency carried out? It showed that it is ever so easy to google one’s way around the firewalls that prevent children from accessing some very undesirable material. That is happening in schools, libraries and children’s bedrooms in the evenings at home. Will my right hon. Friend look at the providers of commercial filters and try to get them to strengthen their firewalls?

Jacqui Smith: I am happy to look at anything we can do to protect children from some of the dangers of the internet. I recognise, of course, that the internet plays an important role in the lives of children and young people—at their schools, in their social lives and in their ability to research. However, it is clearly unacceptable if we cannot put the technical safeguards in place. We have been considering how we can, for example, kitemark some of the products that are involved in filtering and monitoring software. Perhaps, as part of that activity, the company to which my hon. Friend referred could make some progress. However, we take the issue extremely seriously.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Although I welcome the Home Secretary’s comments, does she agree that it is a tragedy that what used to be the place where childhood innocence was protected and preserved—the home—is now often the place where it is corrupted and destroyed?

Jacqui Smith: If that were the sole impact of the internet and some of the new methods of communication, I would agree with the hon. Gentleman. However, as the parent of a teenager, I have had my eyes opened and been amazed by the scope for friends to communicate with each another and talk to each other through sites like Bebo. Sometimes I wish that they would talk face to face; nevertheless, important elements of social networking take place through such sites. We need to put in place the technical safeguards necessary to educate parents and children about how to use them safely. That is an important part of CEOP’s work. I know that work is going on to consider especially those social networking sites. We will soon produce guidance on the technical matters and the way in which we can better advise parents, who need to take responsibility for what their children do in the home.

Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on her new role. Will she join me in paying tribute to Liz Longhurst, who has campaigned tirelessly since the horrific murder of her daughter, Jane, for the outlawing of extreme images of violent internet pornography, which will be made illegal in the recently published Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill? Will my right hon. Friend tell the House when that welcome measure is likely to receive its Second Reading?

Jacqui Smith: I think that the legislation to which my hon. Friend refers is due to receive its Second Reading in the autumn. He is right that the campaigning of Liz Longhurst, ably supported and championed by him, has brought the issue to the fore and applied the necessary pressure to bring about those legislative changes, which will be important in offering protection in this area.

 

30th June   Porn Beneficial...
Oral Evidence
House Of Commons
Home Affairs Committee
A Surveillance Society?
12th June 2007

   
fipr logoSexual violence reduced due to availability of Internet porn

From Hansard see full article

Professor Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering, University of Cambridge, and Chair of the Foundation for Information Policy Research gave evidence to a Home Affairs Committee:

The evidence that we have now ten years later, the most recent study of the correlation, for example, between crime and Internet adoption across the 50 US states, is interesting. It shows that, by and large, the Internet has a positive effect or a beneficial effect in that it reduces some crimes, crimes of sexual violence and crimes of prostitution, which are assumed to be linked with the increasing availability of pornography to young males.

The only crime that has gone up are what the FBI class as 'runaways', that is, children leaving home without their parents' consent before age 18, and some cases of runaways are clearly tragic and others are clearly beneficial to the child and we have no further figures on that.

The things that we were worried about ten years ago and the things that have happened ten years after that were different, so we have to be cautious when we gaze into the future.

 

23rd June   Violent Video Games...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
UK Government to re-examine violent games

Based on an article from GamesIndustry.biz see full article

Keith Vaz raised the issue of Manhunt 2 being banned by the BBFC in Parliamentary questions this week, as well as the withdrawal of PC title Law and Order: Double or Nothing, which contained an image of murdered toddler James Bulger: Will the Leader of the House please tell us when he expects a statement to be made... or when we may have a debate on the social responsibilities of those who make a huge amount of money out of these videogames?

Jack Straw admitted the BBFC falls under his responsibility, and that violence in games is a subject that is likely to be further examined by the UK Government.

We do not see sufficient social responsibility and understanding by the creators and purveyors of such games, commented Straw.


29th June  Update: Playing Early Day Motions...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Nutter MPs congratulate the BBFC

From Hansard see full article

EDM 1744:  BANNING OF VIDEO GAME BY THE BRITISH BOARD OF FILM CLASSIFICATION

Keith Vaz
Mike Penning
Peter Bottomley
Mr Mike Hancock
Mr Robert N. Wareing
Ann Winterton
Mark Lazarowicz

That this House welcomes the decision by the British Board of Film Classification to ban the game Manhunt 2 from being sold in the UK; further welcomes the decision to withdraw from sale another video game which used footage of the abduction of James Bulger; believes that games depicting extreme, realistic and graphic violence can damage the social development of children and young adults; and further believes video games companies should better recognise their social responsibilities when they design a new game.


31st July  Update: Playing for the Adjournment...

Adjournment Debate
House of Commons
26th July

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Nutter Vaz has another Manhunt whinge in parliament

From Hansard see full article

Keith Vaz: I have raised my second point, which is about video games, on many occasions in the House. Since we last had such a debate, I am delighted that the British Board of Film Classification has banned Manhunt 2, the sequel to Manhunt 1, which was produced a few years ago and caused so much controversy. According to Giselle Pakeerah, the mother of Stefan Pakeerah, the young Leicester boy who was stabbed to death in a park in Leicester when aged only 14, the 17-year-old killer copied exactly scenes from Manhunt 1 to lure Stefan into the park and stab him 17 or 18 times with a knife.

Manhunt 2 is even worse because it shows graphic scenes of violence, including people being syringed in the eyes and bludgeoned to death. I was delighted when the BBFC decided to ban it. However, having banned the first video game in 10 years, it is important that the Government react much more proactively. I know that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is the mother of a young child. My children are 12 and 10 and I cannot supervise them every moment of the day. I see them at their computers—obviously, since I became interested in the subject, I check what they are doing there. However, peer groups of which young children are a part may result in their watching videos that are inappropriate for their age because they have access to those games.

A partnership between the retailers, the producers of the video games and the Government is therefore important to ensure, first, that labelling is clear. It is still about the size of a 10p piece, which is far too small. The content of some games is so serious that a warning should be splashed on the bottom that clearly states the age limit so that those games will not pass the retailers who sometimes sell them because inexperienced people operate cash registers and do not know that they should not sell them to someone who is under 18. Such labelling also means that, if such a game is lying around a house, people can see that it is inappropriate.

I welcome what the Government have done and the statement that Tony Blair made just before he resigned as Prime Minister. He said that there is a wider social responsibility, beyond the notion that the publishers should be able to make profits out of such games. A huge amount of money is made out of the production of such games, for which we have become the centre of Europe, but there is a wider social responsibility, too. I therefore hope very much that something can be done to ensure additional research. The Government can do that immediately, without having to wait for the publishers, although they ought to contribute towards the cost of the research.


 
21st March   Smoking on Television...

Questions to Secretary of State for Health
14th March 2007

   
Thank You For Not Smoking DVD coverCan smoking on TV encourage smoking?

From Hansard

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment her Department has made of the impact of people smoking on television and in films on young people's decision on whether or not to start smoking?

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that smoking is not encouraged by its depiction in television programmes and films?

Caroline Flint: The Department has not made a recent assessment of the impact of people smoking on television and in films on young people's decision on whether or not to start smoking.

The Office of Communications code covers the portrayal of smoking in television programmes. This code specifically requires that the portrayal of smoking should not be featured in children's programmes, and included only when there is a strong editorial case for inclusion. In other programmes likely to be widely seen by young people, smoking should be included only where context or dramatic veracity requires it. In such programmes, smoking should not be prominently featured as a normal and attractive activity.

In films, the independent British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) undertook a public consultation exercise to update its guidelines on granting classifications for films which can be seen by children. The public expressed some concern at the depiction of smoking in films. The BBFC issued updated guidelines in 2005, which included the following:

No work taken as a whole may promote or encourage the use of illegal drugs. Any detailed portrayal of drug use likely to promote or glamorise the activity may be cut. Works which promote or glamorise smoking, alcohol abuse or substance misuse may also be a concern, particularly at the junior categories.

The BBFC apply these guidelines to cinema films, as well as videos and computer games.

 

10th February   Websites Regulation...

Home Office Questions
26th Feb 2007

   
Tony Blair proclaiming sexual freedom while legislating against itGovernment plan to increase regulation

From Hansard

Mrs. Riordan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Government plan to increase the regulation of websites based in the UK.

Margaret Hodge: I have been asked to reply.

I refer to the answer of 2 February 2006, Official Report, column 599W, given by the Minister for State for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality. At the national level, there are no plans to increase regulation in this area. Creation and use of websites is not a regulated activity. However, arrangements are in place under the Electronic Commerce Regulations to enable internet service providers in the UK to take down inappropriate content when they are notified of its existence. Activities conducted through websites are subject to the general law in the same way as any other offline activity.

All published material including violent pornography, is subject to the Obscene Publication Act 1959, which makes illegal the publication of an article whose effect, taken as a whole, is to tend to deprave and corrupt those likely to read, see or hear it. Responsibility for the prevention of the physical importation of obscene material lies with HM Revenue and Customs under the terms of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876 and section 170(2) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

The Obscene Publication Act applies equally to material published over the internet, though the overwhelming majority of obscene material published on the internet originates abroad and beyond our jurisdiction. This raises a challenge to our controls on obscene material. The Government are therefore proposing to make illegal the possession of a limited category of extreme pornographic material in measures to be introduced in the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) supported by the UK industry and the European Union works to minimise the availability of illegal internet content particularly child abuse images by means of a telephone hotline to report incidences of potentially illegal content on websites. Reports are passed on to the relevant authorities for action. Since 1996 the amount of potentially illegal content hosted in the UK has declined from 18 per cent. to less than 1 per cent. The work of the IWF is an example of responsible self-regulation by the UK internet industry.

 

7th February  Seeing Hate in Porn...
 

   
Scottish Women Against Pornography logoSWAP have their day in Committee

From the BBC
See also Equal Opportunities Committee Official Report 6 February 2007

Independent 'expert' Ray Wyre, who has a history of working with sex offenders, highlighted websites about bestiality, necrophilia and incitement to rape.

He said the situation with many obscene internet sites was heading out of control and he raised concerns about a failure by legislators to intervene.

The Equal Opportunities Committee of the Scottish parliament was discussing the impact of pornography.

Wyre compared laws prohibiting incitement to racial hatred with the relative lack of regulation on the internet. He said: We can have everything from incitement to abuse, incitement to rape women, incitement to have sex with children and we do nothing about it. The young people know what sites to go to, behind their parents back and we do nothing about it. They are talking about it in playgrounds and yet it isn't even part of this debate as we wouldn't necessarily class it as pornography.

Dr Karen Boyle, of Glasgow University, told the committee that youngsters could learn about pornography as part of sex education at schools to leave them more informed on the issue."It's a mistake to assume that censorship is the only way of dealing with this. There are social policy implications that we can consider.

The discussion followed a petition from Scottish Women Against Pornography calling for porn to be made a hate crime.

Last year, MSP Elaine Smith had called for the petition to be dismissed. The committee agreed with the Labour MSP but backed an evidence session, allowing experts to put forward their views on the issue.

Avedon Carol, of Feminists Against Censorship, argued against a ban, claiming the link to sexual violence was not proven.

 

5th February  Seriously Misguided...
 

   
House of Lords logoie Europe muscling into Internet TV

From the BBC

An EU bid to make internet broadcasters subject to the same laws as traditional television is "seriously misguided", a House of Lords committee has said.

Proposals risk damaging the new media industry, pushing broadcasters to set up outside Europe, the committee said.

The committee was discussing European Commission plans to update the 1989 TV without Frontiers EU directive. The Audiovisual Media Services Directive aims to reflect huge changes in broadcasting in recent years.

It has proved controversial as the EU attempts to increase regulation of video content on the internet, and create a "level playing field" between traditional TV-based and online broadcasts. The EC argues that new broadcasters are effectively competing for viewers and advertising and should be subject to the same rules.

But the all-party Lords European Union Committee rejected this, saying it was not the role of regulation to protect established broadcasters from new competition operating under different business models.

Committee chairman Lord Freeman said: We believe that this attempt was seriously misguided and any future efforts to do the same would be in grave error. Such an attempt risks damaging the new media industry, which is a vibrant and important sector of the UK's economy.

The committee said enforcing the new directive would be difficult, as the pace of change in new media was so quick the definition of services covered may not offer enough legal certainty.

There was also particular concern about attempts to water down the "country of origin principle", which allows broadcasters to offer pan-European services, while complying with the laws of the country they are based in.

Lord Freeman added: Most of our concerns on the proposed directive rest on whether the country of origin principle, which we see as essential to the proper operation of single market legislation, will be maintained. We are firmly convinced that it should be.

 

4th January  More Sexual Offences ...

Commons Committee
(29th January)

   
bloomers
Extending the sex offenders register

From Hansard, thanks to UKRudeGirl
See committee minutes for details of the parliamentary discussion

A Commons committee, The First Delegated Legislation Committee, discussed the proposed extension of the sex offenders register on January 29th.

The Crimes being added to the list of crimes liable to registration are:

* outraging public decency
* theft (eg underwear theft as eported by the press)
* burglary with intent to steal, inflict grievous bodily harm or do unlawful damage
* child abduction
* harassment
* sending prohibited articles by post
* improper use of public electronic communications network

It is at the discretion of the police to apply to the courts for a Sexual Offence Prevention Order, which results in the offender being placed on the sex offenders register. This is normally done if police believe the person might commit another sex-related crime.

The committee were a little self congratulatory about protecting children but seemed to give little consideration to the possibility for abuse via vindictive or inappropriate use of the new law.

If accepted the order will be fast tracked into law within 2 weeks.