Melon Farmers Original Version

UK Government Watch

2008: Jan-March

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11th December   

Update: Political Suicide...

Gordon Brown tells MPs that Ofcom will decide about Right to Die? programme
Link Here

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has told MPs that the broadcast of the assisted suicide of a terminally ill man would have to be judged by Ofcom.

Speaking in Prime Minister's Questions, Brown said he hoped broadcasters would handle such matters with care but that programme Right to Die? , on Sky Real Lives , would be considered by Ofcom.

I think it is important that these issues are dealt with sensitively and without sensationalism and I hope broadcasters will remember that they have a wider duty to the general public. Of course, it will be a matter from the TV watchdog when the broadcast is shown.

He was responding to Liberal Democrat MP Phil Willis who asked whether the Prime Minister regarded the programme as being in the public interest or simply distasteful voyeurism.

Brown acknowledged there were different views about assisted dying but stated he was opposed to legislation making it lawful.

He added: I think it is necessary to ensure there is never a case in the country where a sick or elderly person feels under pressure to agree to an assisted death or somehow feels it is the expected thing to do. That is why I have always opposed legislation for assisted death.

Update: No Complaints

13th December 2008. See article from

The documentary featuring the final moments of a man who opted for assisted suicide received 12 complaints.

The Sky Real Lives programme, Right To Die?, was watched by 222,000 people, the channel's highest ever audience.


4th December   

Updated: Unfair to Men...

Labour campaign for a miserable Britain continues unabated
Link Here
Full story: Lap Dancing License Change...UK lap dancing suffers repressive new licensing

Banks join benefit cheats, lap-dancing clubs and drinkers at the top of a list of targets for legislative action to be unveiled today.

Gordon Brown has made unfairness to men the theme of the second Queen's Speech of his premiership.

Companies will be free to discriminate in favour of women and black job candidates under a proposed Inequality Bill. The move allows employers to give preferential treatment as long as applicants are equally qualified. It is designed to boost the proportion of female and ethnic staff, as well as thrusting more of them into senior posts.

Measures to toughen laws against benefit fraud, ban alcohol promotions and reclassify lap-dancing clubs as sex encounter establishments were trailed yesterday.

Plans by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, for a new Bill of Rights have been shelved.

The Prime Minister said in a document previewing the Queen's Speech yesterday. So as Government takes action, we expect people to play their part in return, with clear consequences for those who do not.

The speech will also announce a Crime Bill changing prostitution and drink laws. There will be proposals to criminalise men who pay for sex with trafficked women. The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has made clear the bill would include a strict liability offence of paying for sex with a trafficked or pimped woman which means that ignorance will be no defence for those accused. The Conservatives have already indicated they are likely to oppose this, making tackling prostitution one of the more unlikely flashpoints in politics over the coming months. [Saying that I didn't notice the Paying for sex provision in any of the Home Office press releases accompanying the Queen's Speech.]

Pbr on the Melon Farmer's forum notes the absence of a Bill to prohibit non-photographic visual depictions of child sexual abuse ... perhaps the first bit of good news in government policy for quite a while now.


31st March   


New bill seeks to give ministers the power to change any law on a whim
Link Here

Ministry of Silly Walks

The Human Rights Act
has just been repealed by
the Minister of Silly Walks

Danger! Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill Part 6 tries to remove even the limited constitutional safeguards of the "destroy Parliament" Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006

It looks as if we will have to again go through all the fuss and lobbying that we saw over the wretched Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, the previous attempt by this Labour Government to neuter Parliament by Order of a Minister.

Part 6
43 Power to make consequential provision

(1) A Minister o the Crown, or two or more Ministers of the Crown acting jointly, may by order make such provision as the Minister or Ministers consider appropriate in consequence of this Act.

(2) An order under subsection (1) may --

(a) amend, repeal or revoke any provision made by or under an Act;

(b) include transitional or saving provision.

(3) An order under subsection (1) is to be made by statutory instrument.

(4) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (1) which amends or repeals a provision of an Act may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(5) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (1) which does not amend or repeal a provision of an Act is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

What happened to the supposed "super-affirmative procedure" and the whole of the debate in Parliament and in the UK political blogosphere over the wretched and controversial Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 then?

The abuse of the catch all, excessively broad wording "amend, repeal or revoke any provision made by or an Act" means that even the Constitutional Acts like Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights 1689, Habeas Corpus, the European Communities Act, the Human Rights Act, the Civil Contingencies Act etc. can all be repealed or amended without the need for a full debate, or for new Primary Legislation, simply by Order of a Minister.


28th March   

Update: Byron Reports...

Safer Children in a Digital World
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Tanya Byron's report entitled Safer Children in a Digital World has been published

Dr Tanya Byron said in the press release that while new technologies bring incredible opportunities to children and young people, parents general lack of confidence and awareness is leaving children vulnerable to risks within their digital worlds. Many parents seem to believe that when their child is online it is similar to watching television. Dr Byron is keen to emphasise that in fact it is more like opening the front door and letting a child go outside to play, unsupervised. Digital world risks are similar to real world risks but can be enhanced by the anonymity and ubiquity that the online space brings.

In order to improve children’s online safety, Dr Byron makes a number of groundbreaking recommendations including:

  • The creation of a new UK Council for Child Internet Safety, established by and reporting to the Prime Minister, and including representation from across Government, industry, children’s charities and other key stakeholders including children, young people and parent panels.
  • Challenging industry to take greater responsibility in supporting families through: establishing transparent and independently monitored codes of practice on areas such as user generated content; improving access to parental control software and safe search features; and better regulation of online advertising.
  • Kick starting a comprehensive public information and awareness campaign on child internet safety across Government and industry, which includes an authoritative ‘one stop shop’ on child internet safety.
  • Setting in place sustainable education and initiatives in children’s services and education to improve the skills of children and their parents around e-safety.

    On video games, Dr Byron recommends a range of high profile and targeted efforts to help inform parents what games are right for their children, such as:
  • Reforming the classification system for rating video games with one set of symbols on the front of all boxes which are the same as those for film.
  • Lowering the statutory requirement to classify video games to 12+, so that it is the same as film classification and easier for parents to understand.
  • Clear and consistent guidance for industry on how games should be advertised.
  • Challenging industry to provide sustained and high profile efforts to increase parent’s understanding of age ratings and improved parental controls.


27th March   

Update: Byron Endgame...

Keeping parents informed and in control
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

The first national strategy for child internet safety, including a streamlined system for classifying computer video games and codes of practice for social networking sites, will be set out today in a ground-breaking report for government.

The six-month study prepared by the child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron, reflects her concern that parents and children are struggling with the impact of the internet and computer games.

Her report will argue that industry and government must do more to provide information to parents on how to set timers on computers, video games and console games. She will propose:

  • New codes of practice to regulate social networking sites, such as Bebo and Facebook, including clear standards on privacy and harmful content
  • A gold standard for the use of console games, including clear set-up guidance for parents on issues such as pin codes and locks
  • Better information for parents on how to block children accessing some websites. Byron has been struck that the technology exists to impose timers and filters, but there has been little take-up, knowledge or development of the technology
  • A new law based on a 2006 Law Commission recommendation making it unlawful to assist suicide on the internet
  • A national council to implement her strategy, with a fixed timetable for industry experts; a parents' panel and child development experts to implement her recommendations.

She will also concede that academic research on the impact of the net on children and their lifestyles is inadequate.

The debate about the internet had, however, been hampered by excessive anxiety, she said, and the issue now placed great challenges before government to do more to protect and educate.

Her research has shown that parents are most worried by predators and children are most concerned by cyberbullying.

Another of her proposals is an overhaul of the video game classification system. Classifications are likely to be refined on the basis that what may be deemed appropriate for someone approaching 18 may well not be appropriate for someone of nine or 10.

The new classification system will be clearer, with one set of logos and much more explicit descriptions of content and context on the packaging. She is also likely to propose a clearer law stating when games cannot be sold under that age. The BBFC system gives no indication about contents of games or detail of why an age rating has been given.

Although social network sites have community guidelines or acceptable use policies, these are not always properly enforced. The most popular video on the website Pure Street Fight was called Girl Beat Up In Street and had been viewed 1,349,046 times.

Byron said she wanted these self-generated and hugely profitable sites to be asked to agree codes of practice on harmful content, and for an independent body to evaluate whether the site is meeting the standards it has set for itself.


23rd March   

Update: Censors Lose the Game?...

Independent previews Byron Report and suggests more censors
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

The Byron report, to be unveiled on Thursday, will call for action to close the "digital divide" that is exposing children to the dangers of explicit content, internet grooming by paedophiles and "cyber-bullying", without the protection of their parents. Dr Byron said: "Kids know more about the technologies than adults. They are using them more and they understand how to use them."

She will recommend that both parents and children should receive lessons in internet safety, including the use of security software, and advice on limiting the amount of personal information released. Her first simple suggestion will be that computers are positioned in shared areas of homes, such as living rooms, so that parents can keep an eye on what their children are viewing.

The classification of video games quickly emerged as a central concern among parents. The majority of new games are given a rating under a voluntary system maintained by Pan-European Game Information (PEGI). Manufacturers have to apply for a statutory BBFC rating only if their product depicts sex, gross violence, criminal activity or drug use.

Dr Byron told representatives of the gaming industry that restructuring the classification system was a fundamental "housekeeping issue".

The review is expected to recommend that all computer games are given the BBFC movie-style classification, with the possibility that the task of rating and regulating the products should be handed to a new organisation with tougher powers to prosecute offenders.


21st March   

Diary: A Date with Tanya Byron...

Byron Review publishing date and presentation
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

27th March

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has told MCV that Tanya Byron’s Review into violence in modern media is to be published next Thursday, March 27th.

The paper is widely expected to recommend a 'cinema style' unified ratings system for games – which could spell the end for either the current PEGI or BBFC classifications on software.

See full article from Spong

April 3rd, BAFTA, Piccadilly, London

Dr Tanya Byron, who leads the review process, will be speaking about it at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) headquarters in London's Piccadilly on April 3rd.

According to BAFTA: Dr Byron will be coming to BAFTA to present the thinking behind her report and take questions.

The evening is co-presented by BAFTA and Showcomotion Children’s Media Conference, reflecting the conference's role in exploring the creative, business and regulatory issues facing the entire children’s media and entertainment industry. The moderator for the evening will be Marc Goodchild, Head of Children’s Interactive and On-Demand at BBC Children's.


18th March   

Update: Game Slipping Away from the BBFC?...

Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Rockstar’s lawyer Lawrence Abramson not only feels that the BBFC's approach to video game classification is flawed, but that the appeals system is a major problem as well.

The Video Appeals Committee overturned the BBFC’s ban of Rockstart title Manhunt 2 , but Abramson still thinks the lack of game players in the process is troublesome.

He continued on the theme but later came up with an interesting snippet: I understand that Tanya Byron is expected to recommend that the regulation of games is taken outside of the BBFC/VAC procedure altogether and that instead the role of PEGI should be enhanced.

A BBFC spokesperson told TechRadar: The BBFC spent many hours examining Manhunt 2 . This involved experienced game players playing the game at every level. Both VAC decisions were by the narrow margin of 4:3. PEGI has no power to reject a game. The BBFC and PEGI co-operate closely.

The VAC decision was a close call. Of the seven members sitting on the Video Appeals, four members of Committee voted in favour of classifying the game against three that voted against Rockstar.

But who were these seven members of the Video Appeals Committee? We asked the BBFC, who informed us that the VAC in the Manhunt 2 case was made up of the following seven people:

  • John Wood, VAC president – former director of serious fraud office
  • Biddy Baxter, TV producer
  • Barry Davies, former deputy director of social services and chair of area child protection committee
  • Pauline Grey – district chairman of the tribunal service and member of the gender recognition panel
  • Prof John Last – former lay member of the press council, lay member of bar standards board, visiting professor at City University
  • Dr. Neville March-Hunnings, lawyer, author of ‘Film Censors and the Law’
  • Dr. Sara Levene, Paediatric safety consultant


12th March   

Still Treated as Serfs...

Civil servants to be gagged
Link Here

Britishness is...
Gagging unflattering comment

Ministers have been accused of "gagging" civil servants after a junior official was threatened with punishment over her internet blog about Whitehall.

The 33-year-old woman, known as the Civil Serf, faces a reprimand and even possible dismissal from the Department of Work and Pensions.

She made unflattering observations about ministers including Peter Hain, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, and Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary. She wrote of "under-utilised" civil servants and policy announcements being endlessly recycled.

Her website was taken down on Sunday night, fuelling speculation that she had been identified or had gone to ground for fear of being found out.

Two possible culprits have now been identified and the Serf could be disciplined on Tuesday.

Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, is now to set out new guidance to civil servants to cover blogging and online social networks following the demise of the “Civil Serf” blogger.

Sir Gus will shortly issue guidelines to tell officials whether they can start up blogs or use social networking websites such as Facebook and YouTube, and even if they can change details on Wikipedia.

The Cabinet Office claimed that officials were drawing up the new guidelines in response to an independent report last year called The Power of Information.

The report, published in January 2007, called for the Government to clarify by last autumn how officials should respond to “the online debate” while keeping within the civil service code. Only certain civil servants, such as those dealing with the media, are expected to make public statements.

The new code is likely to restrict information disclosed on blogs or social networks and limit the individuals who can interact with them.


12th March   

No Response...

Consultation re possession of non-photographic depictions of child sexual abuse
Link Here
Anime girl of indeterminent age

How the fuck are we expected
to know how old she is?

The Government  initiated the consultation last year inviting interested individuals and organisations by 22nd June 2007

The Home Office have so far not followed up with any indication of responses suggesting that the consultation has quietly been shelved.

This assertion is backed up by a related clause that appeared in the next Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. This criminalises the possession of images derived from real images of child abuse. Eg using Photoshop to generate an oil painting effect from a real picture.

However the Scottish Executive have published responses

The BBFC Response made some good points about the difficulties of actually determining the age of characters in stylised animation.


10th March   

Extraordinary Rendition of High Court Injunction...

UK Government gags SAS soldier
Link Here

The Labour government took out a high court injunction to prevent a former member of the British Special Air Services, Ben Griffin, from revealing further details about the government’s involvement in “extraordinary rendition”

The US administration coined the term to cover the practice of sending arrested terrorist suspects to dozens of detention facilities where torture is often carried out. Ever since reports of rendition and torture began to surface after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001, the British government has adamantly denied any knowledge or collaboration with these activities.

In his last public address before the gagging order came into force, Griffin told an antiwar rally, I will be continuing to collect evidence and opinion on British involvement in extraordinary rendition, torture, secret detentions, extra-judicial detention, use of evidence gained through torture, breaches of the Geneva Conventions, breaches of International Law and failure to abide by our obligations as per UN Convention Against Torture. I am carrying on regardless.

Griffin was served with a high court injunction banning him from speaking publicly about, or publishing material from, his time as a soldier in Iraq.


6th March   

Posse of Pillocks...

Brown, Vaz and Brazier on a Manhunt for blame
Link Here

When 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah was brutally murdered in 2004, there were claims that his killer, 17-year-old Warren LeBlanc, was inspired to commit the crime by playing the original Manhunt video game.

That position has largely been discredited over the years. A Scotland Yard investigation of the crime showed that, while Pakerrah himself owned a copy of the game, his killer did not.

Despite that finding, the Leicester Mercury reports that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will meet with Stefan Pakeerah’s mother today to discuss their mutual concerns over violent video games.

The game violence issue is very much front-and-center in British politics these days as the Prime Minister’s government awaits the report of Dr. Tanya Byron, who has been studying the effects of games and the Internet on children. Byron’s report is due later this month.

Also meeting with Brown today are a pair of video game critics from Parliament, Keith Vaz and Julian Brazier.

Vaz spoke of the Pakeerah murder: Stefan was a young, innocent boy with a promising future. This was snatched from him in a gruesome and horrific attack. I want to discuss with the Prime Minister what can be done to stop these games being sold.


28th February   

Update: Straw Rehabilitated...

Straw withdraws prostitution clauses from Criminal Injustice Bill
Link Here

Jack Straw dropped measures to overhaul the law on prostitution yesterday to ensure that a Bill that prevents prison officers from striking is law by May.

It means that the Government has also abandoned a plan to scrap the term “common prostitute” from the statute book — 184 years after it was first used in the Vagrancy Act 1824.

He withdrew the clauses to ensure that the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which re-imposes a ban on prison officers going on strike, is passed by May 8. The deadline is crucial because the Prison Officers' Association withdraws from a voluntary no-strike agreement on that day. If the union were to take strike action it would cause chaos in the overcrowded jails of England and Wales.

The clauses in the Bill that the Government dropped would have meant that women who were persistently found loitering for prostitution would be given a rehabilitation order. Offenders would have had to attend at least three meetings of a rehabilitation course or face arrest and detention for up to 72 hours before being brought before a court.

The compulsory rehabilitation was to apply to those who were convicted of loitering or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution and would have been an alternative to a fine, which is widely seen as counter-productive because it forces prostitutes back on to the street to earn money to pay it.

The clause to remove the term “common prostitute” from the statute book came after a consultation that showed the phrase was regarded as stigmatising and offensive.

John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes & Harlington, welcomed the move. He said: I hope it signals a future approach towards prostitution underlined by welfare measures rather than criminalisation, putting the needs and safety of prostitutes above the desire for moral condemnation.

Update: Why Not the Dangerous Pictures Clauses

1st March 2008

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (Liberal Democrat) noted the dropping of the prostitution clauses with a pointed criticism of the Dangerous Pictures clauses:

I also make a plea to the Government that they think again about the extreme porn clauses. They would benefit enormously from pre-legislative scrutiny, which would enable us to discuss them in a far more considered and necessarily sensitive atmosphere before they were brought on to the Floor of the House.


25th February   

Slapping Slappers...

Sentences for happy slapping on YouTube increased
Link Here

Attackers who post “happy slapping” videos on the internet will face tougher sentences under guidelines for judges that take effect next month.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council, chaired by the Lord Chief Justice, advises courts on how to deal with violent attackers. The guidance takes effect on March 3.

Offenders who inflict injury in an attempted “honour killing” or try to force an arranged marriage will also be dealt with more severely.

Meanwhile there were calls for YouTube to be moderated more closely after a video showing a gang rape was posted on the site. In a three minute clip, a group of teenagers drugged and raped a 25-year-old mother.

The rape video was viewed 600 times before it was removed.

Lucy Beresford, a novelist and psychotherapist, told Sky News the effect on the victim would be devastating: Websites such as YouTube need to act as responsible parents and stop this sort of material being broadcast on the site.

A gang of 'Happy Slappers' will be sentenced next month for an assault posted on YouTube.

James Davis, who is 19 and from Hornchurch in east London, grins in the clip, before butting a police officer's face and breaking his nose.


21st February   

Fighting Violence...

Home Office plan to tackle violence
Link Here

The Home Office have issued a paper entitled Saving Lives. Reducing Harm. Protecting the Public. An Action Plan for Tackling Violence 2008-11.

This paper inevitably touches on the subject of violence in the media:

We will continue to identify and respond to new challenges in violence as they occur. For example, improvements in technology and a changing population in the UK, while bringing many benefits, are changing the nature of the challenge we face with respect to violence.

There are concerns that the way in which violence can be presented in popular culture, for example in music, television, films, videos, computer games and on the internet, may attribute towards a general atmosphere in which violence is tolerated and even glorified. Some individuals may be more influenced by this than others and we are considering this issue in particular with respect to children and young children. We will work with relevant industries and regulators to ensure that any response is proportionate and evidence-based.

We are working with the internet industry to assess how to respond to the growing public concern about violent and offensive content being posted on popular websites. The Byron Review will report to the Secretaries of State for Children, Schools and Families and Culture, Media and Sport on how best to support children and young people to enjoy the benefits of video games and the internet while managing the risks from harmful or inappropriate material.


19th February   

Update: Winners and Losers...

Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

The mainstream media has been pretty rife over the past week with speculation that an upcoming study into violent video games will lead to all games requiring classification from the BBFC

Last weekend, The Guardian newspaper reported the government is likely to subsequently rule all games are rated using the uniform 'cinema style' method as opposed to the current BBFC/PEGI shared system.

A PEGI spokesperson from the Interactive Software Federation of Europe has spoken out about the possible ruling, telling industry website MCV that any move to back the dropping of the PEGI ratings would be a 'mistake' and a 'backwards step' for the UK.

Director general Patrice Chazerand said the body's research shows that the current PEGI/BBFC shared system is trusted and understood by parents and also voiced concerns the UK would regret the decision if games distribution evolves online. He added: I would resent that idea of equating games to movies – it's not the same experience.

Naturally, the BBFC sees things differently. It says it would back any move that makes it responsible for rating every game and that it recognises flaws in the PEGI system. Its own research shows parents can be confused by some of PEGI's ratings. BBFC is a rating people understand from film and DVD, so it might give parents a bit more piece of mind, said spokesperson Sue Clark.


10th February   

Update: Safety in Numbers...

Mean minded Labour to bar sex worker's phone numbers
Link Here

Mean minded ministers want to block the phone numbers of prostitutes who advertise their services in newspapers and telephone booths in an attempt to stifle the illegal sex trade.

Police forces would identify suspected prostitutes to the telephone companies, which would be required to cut off their numbers.

The proposal has emerged in a six-month review of prostitution laws by ministers from three government departments. They are also considering making it illegal to pay for sex.

Vera Baird, the solicitor-general, spewed bollox that it was important to curb “the industry of prostitution” and the demand for call girls if the stream of trafficked women into Britain was to be stemmed.

Critics warned that blocking telephones could drive the trade underground, making it harder to police, and would force more women to walk the streets in the search for business. They also warned that it could criminalise legitimate escorts.

It is 10 times more dangerous to work on the streets than in a flat. It will drive it underground, said Cari Mitchell of the English Collective of Prostitutes.

Last month Baird, Vernon Coaker, a Home Office minister, and Barbara Follett, the women's minister, visited Sweden where it is a criminal offence to pay for sex. All the main Swedish telephone companies have a voluntary agreement with the phone regulator to cut off the lines of brothels and prostitutes.

The ministers have already spoken to local and regional newspaper representatives about withdrawing advertisements for prostitutes — often promoted under the guise of massage services.

Baird also wants more local newspapers to publicly name and shame men convicted of kerb-crawling as a deterrent to others. She praised local papers in Middlesbrough for identifying men who have been convicted of using prostitutes.

Other MPs fear that the measures could backfire. Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat equalities spokeswoman, said: It is a very good thing that the government is looking at this, but there is a danger that it could drive prostitution underground. Any moves to try to eradicate the client side would have to be incredibly carefully handled. In an ideal world prostitution shouldn't exist, but we don't live in an ideal world.


9th February   

Update: Guessing Game...

Outcomes of the Byron Report
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

A legally enforceable cinema-style classification system is to be introduced for video games in an effort to keep children from playing damaging games unsuitable for their age, the Guardian has learned. Under the proposals, it would be illegal for shops to sell classified games to a child below the recommended age.

Ministers are also expected to advise parents to keep computers and games consoles away from children's bedrooms as much as possible, and ask them to play games in living rooms or kitchens facing outward so carers can see what is being played.

Ministers are also expected to recommend blocking mechanisms to protect children from seeing unsuitable games, emails or internet sites. Discussions have already been held with internet service providers to see if an agreement on a standardised filter can be reached.

Tanya Byron is officially due to report next month, but education and culture ministers have a sense of the report's direction. The report's contents, which include a lengthy review of the literature on the impact of video games on children, has been discussed between the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Ministers are anxious to strike a balance between the entertainment, knowledge and pleasure children gain from highly profitable internet and computer games, as well as the dangers inherent in the unregulated world of the net and its overuse by children.

A new British Standards Institution specification proposed by Ofcom, the communications regulator, and the industry is expected to allow the developers of filtering products to test them against the standard designed to protect children and other users from illegal or unsuitable content. Companies that pass the test will be able to display a child safety online kitemark.

Ministers hope the Byron review will act as a way of calming the debate about video games which has become increasingly polarised and based on prejudice. They say they are also willing to examine proposals made by a Tory MP earlier this week for an internet standards authority to be set up to ensure that service providers offer a two-tier system with users able to pick content suitable for adults or children. Hugo Swire, a former shadow culture secretary, has suggested that the default setting for internet content would be for children, with a password or pin needed for unfiltered material.


1st February   

Update: Final Report...

Byron reports adds suicide websites to remit
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

The dangers of internet sites that encourage suicide and discussion about taking your own life are to be part of an official review of child safety on the web.

The Ministry of Justice is also examining new curbs in the law to stop internet sites giving out information about different ways of committing suicide.

It has been working with internet service providers (ISPs) for more than a year to discourage them from hosting sites that may encourage suicide.

Three other Whitehall departments — health, culture and children — are all involved in trying to tackle what the Government describes as a “complex problem”.

Tanya Bryon, who is conducting an independent review of child safety on the web on behalf of the Government, is to study evidence on internet suicide as part of her investigation into the risks from exposure to harmful information, The Times has learnt.

The review is currently considering its responses to the call for evidence, including those on suicide, and will publish its final report in March, a spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said.

The work has been given renewed impetus after widespread public concern about a cluster of teenage suicides in Bridgend, South Wales. Many of the victims had posted messages on social network sites. At least seven young people, all known to each other, have killed themselves in the past year in a series of apparent copycat suicides. Police fear that the prestige of having a memorial website, where friends come to mourn and pay tribute online, may have contributed to the spate of suicides.

A statement from the Ministry of Justice said that the Government wants to encourage ISPs to direct people who are trying to access suicide sites to alternative sites that offer help and support. Among the sites they wish people to be directed to are the Samaritans, NHS Direct and Child Line.

Papyrus, a support organisation that aims to prevent young people committing suicide, is campaigning for the 1961 Suicide Act to be updated to make it illegal to use the internet to induce or advise others to take their own lives, or tell others how to kill themselves effectively. A similar law has been passed in Australia.


30th January   

Update: Trafficked Politicians Forced to Mouth Bollox!...

Reading Post pulls escort small ads
Link Here

The Reading Post has been praised for putting a stop to advertisements selling sexual services.

The move follows a survey by the Government Equalities Office which found up to 75% of local newspapers are carrying small ads selling sexual services worth £44m amid supposed concern about human trafficking.

It also discovered a large proportion of the ads specified that the women were foreign. [But this of course does not infer that they are trafficked]

The Government is already in talks with the newspaper industry about removing such ads.

Harriet Hardnose, minister for women and equality and Labour's Deputy Leader, said: Within these ads are girls who've been trafficked into modern day slavery. And Ms Harman hailed the example of the Reading Post in putting a stop to the ads. If other papers follow this example, and when the guidelines are implemented, we can make progress towards eradicating this intolerable trade.


28th January   

Censorship Levy...

Lord Levy refuses to submit memoirs for censorship
Link Here

Lord Levy, former fundraiser for Tony Blair, has refused to allow the Cabinet Office censor to vet his memoirs. The decision is likely to prompt concerns in Downing Street that the book will criticise Gordon Brown.

Simon & Schuster, the publishing house, announced on Thursday that it had won the rights to publish the book. Lord Levy played a crucial role in attracting funding for Labour. He was arrested last year as part of the police investigation into the "cash for honours" inquiry, although he was never charged.


27th January   

Update: Byron Reporting...

BBFC style ratings to be applied to all games
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

A likely outcome of the Government commissioned Byron Report is that video games will get BBFC-style age ratings. And these will be legally enforceable.

Ministers want to make it easier for parents to protect their children from violent games by introducing a new, simpler classification system based on age ratings used by the BBFC. Under the new scheme, it would become illegal for retailers to sell any video game to a child who was younger than the age rating on the box. At present, only games with near video content are regulated.

The moves come after more than 400 children and 350 adults responded to an inquiry headed by television psychologist Dr Tanya Byron into the potential dangers to young people of the internet and video games. Her review, due to be published in March, has found that people want clearer information about the content of video games.

Under the current rules, about 10% of the 2,000 or more video games produced each year are given an age rating from the BBFC. Only games that show sex, gross violence, criminal activity or drug use have to be referred to the BBFC. Shop staff can be fined or even sent to prison if they sell a game to a child below the age rating.

The majority of games receive an age rating based on a voluntary system run by Pan-European Game Information (PEGI). PEGI ratings are not legally enforceable, however.

Eileen McCloy, who runs family rights group Not With My Child, said: Voluntary regulation rarely works, shopkeepers don't care so long as the child looks about the right age. It needs to be legally enforceable.

Gordon Brown has indicated that he is prepared to back Byron's recommendation for a single, legally backed classification system.

The Byron review has worked closely with the video games industry, which is worth more than £800m to the UK economy.

David Braben, the founder of Frontier Games, said there was already a strict regime in place which the industry went to great lengths to adhere to. He said parents and retailers must take some responsibility: The real question is how seriously do people take the existing regime. I have been in a shop when a woman was buying an '18' game for what looked like a 10-year-old and you'll find that games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas , which has an 18 rating, are being played by children.

Sue Clark, the BBFC's head of communications, said: Our research shows that the public knows and understands the BBFC system and that the age limits relate to content not to their level of difficulty.


16th January   

Update: No Imminent Knife Threat...

Gordon Brown is waiting on the Byron Report
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Following yesterday's press reports, in which Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quoted talking about knife crime and associating it with videogames, the government has moved to dispel concerns that any new crackdown is imminent.

A Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) spokesperson has told that the report didn't highlight any change in policy, nor did it add anything to the debate.

The Prime Minister has previously expressed concern about the content of computer games, and their effect on young people, which is why he commissioned the Byron Report. We're aware that the games industry is working with the Byron Report to address those concerns."

Paul Jackson, director general of publisher association ELSPA, added: We have been further reassured that there will be no changes to government policy in this area until Dr Byron publishes her findings at the end of March."


15th January   

Threatening to Cut...

Gordon Brown threatens to stick the knife into video games
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Gordon Brown last night moved to tackle growing public fears over knife crime by ordering police to prosecute, rather than caution, anyone caught carrying knives. Backing zero-tolerance policing in a dozen knife-crime "hot spots" across the country, the prime minister said more knife carriers should be prosecuted in an effort to rebuild public confidence and reclaim the streets from violent gangs.

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, will unveil the government's Violent Crime Action Plan next month, a major policy initiative to curb violent crime, which is expected to include recommendations to increase the number of searches conducted by police and an increased reliance on evidence from CCTV cameras.

Extending the scope of his attack on knife culture, Brown said that the makers and sellers of violent video and computer games must shoulder some responsibility: No one wants censorship or an interfering state... BUT ... the industry has a responsibility to society and needs to exercise that.

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