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UK Parliament Watch

2008: Oct-Dec

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20th December   

Policing and Crime Bill...

Section 13: Paying for sexual services of a controlled prostitute
Link Here

The relevant section about paid for sex from the recently published Policing and Crime bill:

Section 13: Paying for sexual services of a controlled prostitute: England and Wales

After section 53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 insert

53A Paying for sexual services of a prostitute controlled for gain

(1) A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a) A makes or promises payment for the sexual services of a prostitute (B), and

(b) any of B's activities relating to the provision of those services are intentionally controlled for gain by a third person (C).

(2) The following are irrelevant—

(a) where in the world the sexual services are to be provided and whether those services are provided,

(b)  whether A is, or ought to be, aware that any of B's activities are controlled for gain.

(3) An activity is “controlled for gain” by C if it is controlled by C for or in the expectation of gain for C or another person (apart from A or B).

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.”


19th December   

Update: Fit for Lords...

Fitna to be screened at the House of Lords
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

The UK's House of Lords will show Geert Willders' controversial Islam film Fitna . So says Wilders following the European Parliament's refusal to show the short film.

The European Parliament rejected a request by the UK MEP Gerard Batten of the anti-European Independent Party to allow Fitna to be shown in Strasbourg to MEPs and journalists. Wilders called the ban "censorship" and compared the European Parliament to Saudi Arabia.

Wilders has recently shown Fitna at meetings in Jerusalem and New York. He said the film will also be on view in the House of Lords in January.

Christian democratic MEP Maria Martens was pleased by the decision not to show Fitna in the EP. The film has nothing to do with freedom of expression. This freedom does not give the right to offend.

Conservative MEP Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on the other hand called the banning of Fitna unbelievably stupid because the film does fall within the boundaries of the law and Wilders has now got more publicity and attention than if he had been able to show his film.


15th December   

Purnell May Hatemen Too...

Theresa May has a whinge at job centre adverts for sex related posts
Link Here
Full story: Sex Work and Jobcentres...Whinging at job centre adverts for the adult trade

Rules that allow jobcentres to advertise sex related opportunities are being reviewed by the Government, Commons Leader Harriet Hatemen said today.

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell is looking into guidelines that allowed more than 350 sex industry jobs to be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices across the country last year.

Shadow Commons leader Theresa May said jobs included topless semi-nude bar staff and nude cleaners.

During exchanges on future Commons business, May told MPs of Harman's quest to stop local newspapers advertising the sex trade.

She told Harman: Pity you can't persuade the Work and Pensions Secretary to join your campaign. A new report shows that Jobcentre Plus advertised 351 vacancies in the adult entertainment industry last year, including adverts for topless semi-nude bar staff and nude cleaners.

Two jobseekers complained - they were asked to perform sexual services after contacting an employer about a vacancy advertised at Jobcentre Plus.

May demanded an end to this hypocrisy within Government.

Harman, who is also Women's Minister, said: I absolutely agree with you that there is no way that job centres should be used as a place for advertising jobs for sexual services, for lap dancing, for sex encounter establishments. I raised this with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions - he is reviewing the situation. We don't want any of those sorts of jobs in our jobcentres.


26th November   

Update: Lapping up Nonsense...

Lap Dancing association declare their own entertainment as unstimulating
Link Here
Full story: Lap Dancing License Change...UK lap dancing suffers repressive new licensing

Lap dancing is not sexually stimulating, the chairman of the Lap Dancing Association told a parliamentary committee.

Simon Warr made the claim, which was greeted with justifiable scepticism by MPs, while he was giving evidence to the Commons culture committee as part of an inquiry into the operation of the Licensing Act.

The government is under pressure to change the act so that lap dancing clubs have to be licensed as sex encounter establishments.

At the moment, they are licensed in the same way as pubs and clubs, which has led to complaints from councils who believe that they do not have the power to stop clubs being opened in their areas.

In their evidence to committee, Warr and colleagues from the Lap Dancing Association claimed that their clubs should not be classified as sex encounter establishments because they were providing hospitality, not sexual services. But Warr astonished the committed when he argued that sexual stimulation was not part of the clubs' attraction.

One of the biggest problems we face is that not enough people understand the business blueprint of our clubs, he said: Actually, our premises are not sexually stimulating. It would be contrary to our business plan if they were.

At this point, Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley who was questioning Warr, said he found that hard to believe.

Warr replied: Then you need to go to a club, because the purpose of a club is to provide entertainment. It's to provide alcohol, it's a place of leisure. All right, the entertainment may be in the form of nude or semi-nude performers, but it's not sexually stimulating.

Peter Stringfellow, the strip club owner, who was giving evidence alongside Warr and his colleagues, intervened to try to explain what he thought Warr had meant by his comments.

Of course it's sexually stimulating. So is a disco. So is a little girl flashing away with her knickers showing. Of course it's sexually stimulating. So is David Beckham laid out in his Calvin Klein [underwear]. So are the Chippendales. Of course it does have some form of sex.

But what my colleague was trying to explain was that it's not sex, 100%. It's not 'I'm going to go and get divorced.' It does not go on like that. Our environment lasts three minutes. Their clothes are on and off before you can blink. It's a lot more to do with personality. It's a lot more to do with the ambience of the club.

Earlier in the session, Davies asked the Lap Dancing Association to respond to allegations that at some clubs dancers do offer sexual services, contrary to the rules. Chris Knight, the vice chairman of the association, replied: We are not saying there are not bad clubs. There are bad drivers. But you do not change the way that you licence drivers.

Kate Nicholls, the secretary of the Lap Dancing Association, said that councils already had enough power to stop clubs opening under the existing legislation, which allows them to consider issues such as public safety, public order, public nuisance and the protection of children: If you cannot form an objection to an outlet [under one of these criteria], then you are just accepting that you have got a fundamental objection to the premises.

But the committee also heard from two representatives of Object, a human rights organisation campaigning against the sex object culture. Object wants lap dancing clubs to be classified as sex encounter establishments.

Sandrine Leveque, Object's advocacy officer, said: Lap dancing clubs promote gender stereotypes and their expansion is therefore of concern to women's organisations up and down the country.


19th November   

Flynn Flack...

Parliament censors members blogs
Link Here

A Labour MP says he has been stripped of a Parliamentary allowance for making fun of other MPs on his blog.

Paul Flynn was told to remove posts including ones calling ex-Labour minister Peter Hain a shapeshifter and Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik a clown.

When Mr Flynn refused he had part of his communications allowance removed.

Other MPs have complained of the Commons trying to censor their blogs but the authorities say there are rules on using public money for propaganda.

MPs voted last year to give themselves a £10,000 allowance to spend on boosting the public understanding of Parliament through websites and other publicity material. They were warned that they would not be allowed to use the money to publish political propaganda on their websites.

But Mr Flynn said the authorities were not concerned about bias on his site. They were instead trying to impose the same rules of etiquette that apply in the Commons chamber on the internet, which he said amounted to censorship.

They didn't have any complaints about the party political content, it was the courtesies of the House, he told the BBC News website: But I have never seen the rules written down. They just rang me up after reading my blog and said 'you can't say that'.

In one post, Mr Flynn compares Labour colleague Peter Hain to a Star Trek character who liquefies at the end of each day and sleeps in a bucket to emerge in another chosen shape the following morning. He also turns his satirical fire on Lembit Opik, who recently failed in his bid to be elected Lib Dem president, whom he describes as a clown and a turkey whose speciality is mindless political populism over intelligence.

Another Labour MP, Derek Wyatt, has clashed with the Commons authorities over the content of his website. There is nothing to stop MPs having a blog but there has to be appropriate use of the communications allowance. He said he had been forced to remove 13 video clips which allegedly included party political points.

He said: They don't get in the way of my letters or phone calls, so why do they want to interfere in what I put on the web? They only want me to publish anodyne videos that no one will watch. They have got it completely wrong. They don't understand the net. They simply don't get it. It is like 1984.


19th November   

Update: Branded as Slow...

Parliamentary committee questions BBC over Russell Brand Show
Link Here
Full story: Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross...Winding up Andrew Sachs and Voluptua

BBC bosses have been questioned by MPs over the crude phone calls made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross to actor Andrew Sachs.

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons denied the corporation had been slow in its response to the incident, but admitted lessons could be learned.

The BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, admitted a very serious editorial lapse had occurred.

The pair were speaking at a Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing.

Conservative MP Nigel Evans criticised the BBC's lamentable slowness in handling the crisis, but Sir Michael replied: There was no lack of speed. I don't think we could've got an apology out any earlier . He added there was a case that the BBC's head of audio, Tim Davie, should have been on the airwaves to make a public statement a little earlier.

MPs also criticised Lyons and Thompson for failing to fire Ross and Brand for gross misconduct.

The primary failing is not the antics of performers, it's the fact it was allowed to go out, Lyons replied: Until we have finished our investigations, I would be careful about terms like gross misconduct which have contractual implication .

He added one of the things the trust was exploring was whether it is right to leave a young producer implanted in a company that is owned by one of the performers, a reference to the BBC producer who was drafted in to work for Brand's production company while the star's regular producer was away.

Thompson added that the corporation would be looking at whether additional safeguards were needed to ensure compliance procedures were being fulfilled in programmes made by independent production companies where the artist has an economic involvement.

Lyons told MPs the trust had not finished its inquiry and that all decisions would follow from that, with nothing being ruled in or out.

Thompson is due to report back to the trust later this week on BBC management's findings over the furore. The trust will announce the results of their investigation on Friday, 21 November.


15th November   

A New Labour Banshee...

Shrill censorship noises from the new culture minister, Barbara Follett
Link Here

Politicians are ready to introduce league tables naming the speed with which internet service providers take down supposedly 'offensive' material.

The culture minister, Barbara Follett, and her Tory shadow, Ed Vaizey, have backed the idea that web providers must be embarrassed into dealing with violent, sexually explicit web content.

Follett said she wants to see the pre-screening of material on sites such as YouTube, as occurs at present on MySpace. She claimed there was growing chaos out there on the internet, and order needed to be brought.

She has also admitted barriers aimed at preventing children from accessing over-age material on the internet are not just porous but leak like a sieve. "People can get straight through it, or straight by it."

Follett warned: We must teach children of the dangers of the internet. It is sad to make children more scared than interested, but fortunately the internet is so interesting that children tend to overcome their fear.

Discussing the internet and video games at a Westminster debate and facing suggestions that the industry is lax about controlling content, Follett said: We agree information about take-down times and levels of search need to be much clearer. Asked if she supported league tables of take-down times by internet service providers, she said name and shame can sometimes can work very well indeed.

Follett said: Many people have said that the internet is like the wild west in the gold rush and that sooner or later it will be regulated. What we need is for it to be regulated sooner rather than later.

She added: We must ensure that search engines have a clear link to child safety information and safe search settings on the front page of their website. She also said she saw some value in some form of age identity card for the internet. It is useful when it comes to alcohol and cigarettes and it is certainly useful when it comes to buying video games and other material on the internet.

The proposal for a take-down league table is backed by Vaizey. He said: The government is in a position to put out the information, and it is up to the internet service providers to react to it. If they are happy to be 55th in a league table of take-down times so be it.

Overall, Follett's remarks suggest she will be more interventionist than some other ministers, although she has stressed she favours the internet and largely thinks self-regulation is best option. She also insisted there was not yet compellingly persuasive evidence of a link between watching violent video games and subsequent acts of violence.


15th November   

Update: Kaboom Debate Implodes...

MPs dismiss Vaz's nonsense about amateur flash animation game
Link Here
Full story: Kaboom...Kaboom flash animation winds up the nutters

Internet and Video Games
Westminster Hall debates
Thursday, 13 November 2008

Keith Vaz's ludicrous tirade against the old flash animation game called Kaboom came up in a Westminster debate.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour)

The hon. Gentleman and I have both commented on the video internet game Kaboom in which people replicate the activities of a suicide bomber. It cannot be right that the makers of those games should choose such storylines to provide entertainment, especially on the internet, where our children and under-18s can access them more easily than if they were going into a shop to buy them, as with non-internet games?

John Whittingdale (Maldon & East Chelmsford, Conservative)

This is a very difficult area and Kaboom , which has been around for a little while, is an interesting example. It is a remarkably crude, cartoon-type game and is not in the least realistic, as many games now are. It is undoubtedly tasteless and might be offensive to a large number of people. I suspect that it is probably distressing to anyone who has suffered a bereavement as the result of a suicide bombing. Does that mean that it should be banned? I am not convinced that it should, because it is so crude, and other games pose greater concerns.

Edward Vaizey (Shadow Minister, Culture, Media & Sport; Wantage, Conservative)

May I make a point to my hon. Friend? In his response to Keith Vaz, he has implied that Kaboom is somehow a legitimate video game that breaches the boundaries of taste, but it is not. It was created by an individual in his bedroom. To say that we should ban Kaboom is, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, slightly missing the point. Kaboom is not subject to any legal constraints. It cannot be submitted to a regulator to be classified, because it is made by an individual, effectively illegally, outside the mainstream, just as violent pornographic films or child abuse photographs are. It is not at all part of the mainstream video games industry.

John Whittingdale

I agree with my hon. Friend. I hope that he noted that I did not say it should be banned, even if that were possible.


Keith Vaz

I first became involved in this issue when the son of one of my constituents, Stefan Pakeerah, was murdered in Leicester. The murder mirrored scenes in a video game called Manhunt . Warren LeBlanc was sent to prison, and Stefan Pakeerah is dead. Stefan's mother started a campaign about the harmful effects of video games and got me involved in it. I pay tribute to her for all the work that she has done.

As soon as I took up the issue, I became the subject of much internet abuse from those who felt that there should be absolute freedom in dealing with video games. I am not sure whether I got a website dedicated to opposing me, as my hon. Friend Janet Anderson did. I am fascinated to know who her WeeMee is.

I was once voted the third most unpopular person in the world, after Hillary Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, by the readers of one of the video game magazines. I suppose that I should take that as a compliment, but it points to the almost hysterical approach that the video games industry and the newspapers that support it sometimes take to anyone who manages to raise such matters in the House.

What we need first of all from the industry is responsibility and partnership. We are all on the same side. We are saying clearly that for someone who is over 18, there should be no censorship or attempt to stop them seeing or doing whatever they want as far as video games are concerned. My interest has always been to protect those who are under 18. Some are our children, of course, but it goes beyond protecting our own children. That is my only concern—not to stop adults buying games but to ensure that harmful games do not fall into the hands of young people and children.


15th November   

Update: Like Lemmings...

Politicians clamour for website take downs, this time suicide related
Link Here
Full story: Suicide Censorship...UK government proposes to ban suicide information

Internet and Video Games
Westminster Hall debates
Thursday, 13 November 2008

Madeleine Moon (PPS (Rt Hon Jim Knight, Minister of State), Department for Children, Schools and Families; Bridgend, Labour)

This week, I was sent an online game to look at. The online game is called Billy Suicide. Players of the game are encouraged to stop Billy shooting himself in the head. They are encouraged to keep Billy active—to move him around the room or get him to play his guitar—and to monitor his depression, get him a cup of coffee and do things to stop him taking his life. When people playing the game do not do that, he shoots himself in the head. Someone has said to me, Well, it's just the same as the tamagotchi games. In those games, if someone does not look after their pet, it gets fleas and dies.

What sort of society do we want? What sort of society are we promulgating? I would welcome the censorship of that online game. We must set limits and boundaries when we bring up our children. As a society, we set limits and boundaries on individual behaviour. We must start setting limits and boundaries in the online world and in cyberspace. If we do not, we will give our youngsters access to information and standards that, in fact, destroy the limits and values we set in the real world. As we know, sometimes our young people spend more time interacting in the online, unreal world than they do in the real world.

I am worried about the role that these sites play in relation to social contagion, which is where access to information about suicide—the normalisation of suicide and its social acceptability—makes it more likely that others will seek to take their own lives. We must take responsibility for the distress to the families and friends I have mentioned. We must also take responsibility for prolonging the grief of those families and friends, because that adds to the risk that a member of that family will take their own life.

The Press Complaints Commission is making progress on the matter, but I agree that an industry body is needed. It is imperative that we have an 0800 number that someone can ring to get a site taken down quickly. That is something I hope will come out of Lord Carter's review. My constituent had been trying to get a site taken down for two months before she came to me—two months with no action. We cannot allow such behaviour to continue. It is too complex to track down the person in these agencies who will allow change to happen. The public need to be able to send through their comments quickly.

I have highlighted the impact of the industry on just one small community in one small area. That impact has been devastating and has blighted the lives of many people. I am so grateful that the Committee has taken the opportunity to make these recommendations, and I hope that steps will be taken across Government to improve a totally unacceptable unregulated state of affairs.


13th November   

Update: Swearing by Jamie Oliver...

Channel 4 head battles culture of conservatism
Link Here
Full story: Strong Language on TV...Whinging about strong langauge on TV

The head of Channel 4 has defended strong language on television, saying he will not allow a culture of conservatism to stop presenters such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay from using offensive language.

Julian Bellamy, who is in charge of programming, said it was important that occasional errors of judgement did not usher in a new era of censorship.

Bellamy said he had no intention of reining in presenters such as Oliver, whose most recent Channel 4 show was criticised by MPs for being riddled with swearing.

He said that Channel 4 programmes, which include those fronted by the notoriously foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsay, struck a balance between reflecting how people express themselves and not using bad language gratuitously.

I think we've got the balance right with Jamie, he said: When we watch those shows it's very clear that when Jamie uses fruity language it is a real response to the shock and anger at what he sees. It's spontaneous.

He said that audiences wanted Channel 4 to push boundaries, challenge orthodoxies and take risks even if that meant that some programmes caused offence.

That doesn't mean producers should be given free rein to offend. Far from it, he said at the launch of Channel 4's winter schedule. Challenging material must be editorially justified in the proper context, with procedures in place so we don't cause undue offence. But I believe that if television loses its nerve and never risks offence it will be come a weaker and less relevant medium today.

Selected for Interrogation

Based on article from

MPs are to question BBC chiefs about strong language on the box.

Director general Mark Thompson and the BBC Trust's Sir Michael Lyons will also be quizzed about the Manuelgate scandal involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

John Whittingdale, chairman of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said the two men will be asked to account for a lapse in broadcasting standards. He added: The committee also intends to raise with them concerns that have arisen following the Jonathan Ross broadcast.

Watchdog Ofcom said it had no plans to review its guidelines on bad language. A spokesman said the amount of swearing in a programme was an editorial decision.


13th November   

Update: Trouser Wearing Lap Dancers...

Lap Dance Association make their case in Parliament
Link Here
Full story: Lap Dancing License Change...UK lap dancing suffers repressive new licensing

Members of the Lap Dancing Association are to visit the Palace of Westminster later this month as part of their campaign against proposals to classify them as sex workers.

I don't suppose many select committees discuss lap dancing, not as part of official business anyway, says Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley: I have no idea whether there will be an official visit to one of these clubs, but it is always a good idea to see these things first-hand. John Whittingdale, who chairs the committee, can't believe what has landed in his lap: I have the best job in parliament,

The association has already submitted a report, which defends women's right to perform striptease.

It ends with the cheeky postscript: Our criticisers have obviously never visited a lap dancing club. The reality is that, if they had, they would realise that although the girls take their tops off, it is definitely they who wear the trousers.


12th November   

Update: A Word that Begins with 'Fuck' and Ends in 'Wit'...

Denis MacShane whinges about strong language on TV
Link Here
Full story: Strong Language on TV...Whinging about strong langauge on TV

MacShane : I hear f f f f
on TV, tell me we don't
hear that in France.
Burnham : No they
say b b b b

House of Commons debates
Monday, 10 November 2008
Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport
Public Service Broadcasting

Denis MacShane (Rotherham, Labour)

Mr. Speaker, if I used that English vernacular word that begins with f and ends in k, you would chop me off at the knees—if not higher—before I had even got up. Yet all the broadcasters now use it regularly, and it is really offensive. This is not a watershed matter. There are plenty of children watching TV programmes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights after 9 o'clock. I have watched Jamie Oliver reporting from Rotherham, and I have watched quiz shows, and I hear f, f, f, f. Please tell the BBC and Ofcom that we do not hear that in France, Germany or America, so why, with our great language, does British broadcasting have to be in the linguistic sewer?

Andy Burnham (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Leigh, Labour)

My right hon. Friend has expressed himself very clearly and trenchantly. The report that I mentioned a moment ago revealed an increase, indeed a spike, of bad language immediately after the watershed, which suggests that it needs to be said that it is not obligatory to use bad language after the watershed.

I believe that my right hon. Friend speaks for many people in the country in saying that while people accept that the language used on television programmes ought to reflect the language used in the country as a whole, there are occasions on which the line has clearly been crossed, and I know that others share the discomfort that he has so eloquently expressed.


12th November   

Extreme Awards...

Erotic Awards for Politicians
Link Here

The recent Erotic Awards honoured three politicians

Lord Richard Faulkner

Labour peer who defended the rights of sex workers, their clients, and extreme pornography, during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill 2008. Regarding pornographic images that are said to be ‘extreme', he said, ‘I was left with the question of whether their possession is so threatening to society that it is worth turning people into criminals and sending them to jail,' and decided, ‘I really cannot imagine that any useful purpose is served by creating criminals out of the people who possess them.

John McDonnell MP

Politician who took a brave step by arranging for sex workers to join politicians and academics to discuss the laws surrounding sex work in the House of Commons Committee Room 10. This momentous meeting, on Wednesday 16th January 2008, was called by the Safety First Coalition, and the committee room was bulging with people and enthusiasm. Ten peers came to inform themselves in preparation for a debate in the Lords on the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. The Bill introduced an offence of persistent soliciting and compulsory ‘rehabilitation' against sex workers. These sections of the Bill were eventually dropped. One of the speakers, outspoken pioneer Swedish sex worker Pye Jakobson said of the event, ‘This was the day in my life when I knew I was making history.'

Baroness Sue Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Defended the rights of sex workers and clients, and extreme porn, during discussion of the Criminal Justice Bill 2008. When absolutely no concessions were made, she withdrew her amendments in order that she could bring them back on a third reading.

See also


10th November   

Update: Police Go Secret...

Parliament security committee seek UK government and police powers to censor news media
Link Here

Britain's security agencies and police would be given unprecedented and legally binding powers to ban the media from reporting matters of 'national security', under proposals being discussed in Whitehall.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, the parliamentary watchdog of the intelligence and security agencies which has a cross-party membership from both Houses, wants to press ministers to introduce legislation that would prevent news outlets from reporting stories deemed by the Government to be against the interests of 'national security'.

The committee also wants to censor reporting of police operations that are deemed to have implications for 'national security'. The ISC is to recommend in its next report, out at the end of the year, that a commission be set up to look into its plans, according to senior Whitehall sources.

Civil liberties groups say these restrictions would be very dangerous and damaging for public accountability. They also point out that censoring journalists when the leaks come from officials is unjustified.

But the committee, in its last annual report, has already signalled its intention to press for changes. It states: The current system for handling national security information through DA-Notices and the [intelligence and security] Agencies' relationship with the media more generally, is not working as effectively as it might and this is putting lives at risk.

The human rights lawyer Louise Christian said: This would be a very dangerous development. We need media scrutiny for public accountability. We can see this from the example, for instance, of the PhD student in Nottingham who was banged up for six days without charge because he downloaded something from the internet for his thesis. The only reason this came to light was because of the media attention to the case.


10th November   

Paying for it Now...

The UK Government confirm that they will outlaw 90% of paid for sex
Link Here

The Harriet Hateman Committee

House of Commons debates
Thursday, 6 November 2008
Oral Answers to Questions — Solicitor-General

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough, Labour):

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the review of demand for prostitution; and if she will make a statement.

Vera Baird (Solicitor General, Redcar, Labour):

I have discussed with the Home Secretary a number of measures to address the problems of prostitution arising from the demand review. They were mainly announced by the Home Secretary in September, and included improvements to the legislation on kerb crawling, new powers to close brothels, greater restrictions on lap dancing clubs and a new offence of paying for sex with someone who is controlled for another's gain. The full results of the review will be announced this month.

Fiona Mactaggart:

I thank the Solicitor-General for that reply. The last of those offences announced by the Home Secretary—the offence of having sex with someone who is controlled for gain—mirrors an offence in Finland. Is the Solicitor-General aware that there have been no prosecutions since the Finnish offence was introduced?

Vera Baird:

No, I did not know that. However, I do not think that that is an inherent defect of the offence, and I am not sure that the two offences are identical. We prosecute those who control prostitutes for gain, so prosecuting people who pay for sex with a person who has been prostituted for gain goes with the grain of what we do already. We all know that a very high percentage of prostitutes are controlled for another's gain, so one might think that there is a 90 per cent. chance that any man who buys sex will fall foul of this law. We will have to design its finer points later, but we have every hope that it will make a significant difference and be a significant deterrent.


9th November   

Update: D-Censors...

More D-Notices issued by the Government
Link Here
Full story: D-Notices...UK press censorship of defence issues

Seven D-notices were sent to all UK newspaper editors by the Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPBAC) in 2007 and a further five so far this year, Defence Minister Kevan Jones revealed in a written parliamentary reply published.

This compares with just two being issued in each of the previous three years from 2003, one in 2002, three in 2001, two in 2000, three in 1999 and none in either 1998 or 1997.

The D-Notice system, which is a virtual blanket publication ban, is a voluntary code that began back in 1912 to provide guidance to the British media on the publication or broadcasting of national security information.

The committee, a joint government-media body, says the objective is to prevent inadvertent public disclosure of information that would compromise UK military and intelligence operations and methods, or put at risk the safety of those involved in such operations, or lead to attacks that would damage the critical national infrastructure and/or endanger lives.

No details are given of the latest bans. Some journalists have argued that the bans often include subjects that are merely unflattering to government, rather than a matter of national defence and thus are a form of soft censorship.


8th November   

Update: Wasting Parliamentary Time...

Keith Vaz tries to wind up parliament over whimsical flash animation
Link Here
Full story: Kaboom...Kaboom flash animation winds up the nutters

Nutter MP Keith Vaz has lodged an early day motion with parliament.

EDO 2416:

That this House condemns the creation of the online computer game Kaboom which asks the player to replicate the actions of suicide bombers; believes that this game is offensive to the families of those killed by suicide bombers and devalues all human life; further believes that this game depicts an unnecessary level of violence; is deeply concerned that vulnerable people under the age of 18 are able to access and play this game; calls upon the game's creator to show sensitivity and responsibility by removing it from the internet; welcomes the findings of a new study from Iowa State University which recognises the link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour; and calls on the Government to revise its regulation of violent video games.

Vaz also brought the subject up in Parliament with a question to Harriet Harman, Leader of the House

Vaz: Has my right hon. and learned Friend had the opportunity to look at early-day motion 2416?

[The motion] refers to an online computer game called "Kaboom", which asks players to replicate the actions of a suicide bomber. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that is offensive to the families of the victims of suicide bombings and that it devalues human life? I have raised this matter on several occasions at business questions and in other debates. What action are the Government taking to remove such material from the internet or, at the very least, to approach service providers to ensure that they take appropriate action? Children and young people will be able to have access to those games. Could we have a debate on this important matter?

Harman: The Government are concerned about the effect on children of violent internet and video games, which is why we commissioned the Byron review. That set out how we need action from parents, from the industry itself and from the Government to ensure that there is proper control of content and clear labelling to protect young children. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's long-standing interest in these issues, which he had even before he became Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. Under his leadership, the Committee has taken a strong interest in such matters. I bring to his attention the fact that on Thursday 13 November, in Westminster Hall, there will be a debate on the question of harmful content on the internet and in video games.


5th November   

Update: Taking the Rap...

Chief Constable decided to complain to Ofcom about Undercover Mosque
Link Here
Full story: Undercover Mosque...Police made false accusations re Undercover Mosque

The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police was personally responsible for the disastrous decision to complain about Channel 4's Undercover Mosque documentary exposing extremism in a Birmingham mosque, an inquiry has been told.

Paul Scott-Lee, head of the region's force, approved the decision in a conversation with another senior officer, the Home Affairs Select Committee heard.

But nobody has been disciplined for the humiliating incident, which led to the force being sued for libel in the High Court and forced to offer a grovelling apology.

Philip Gormley, Deputy Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, was quizzed in Westminster by MPs conducting an inquiry into the way forces work with the media.

Instead of prosecuting the preachers, West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service issued a press release accusing programme makers of distorting comments, and reported Channel 4 to TV watchdog Ofcom for heavily editing the words of imams to give them more sinister meaning.

But Ofcom dismissed the complaint, while Channel 4 and documentary-makers Hardcash Productions successfully sued for libel.

Gormley told MPs the Chief Constable, who has announced plans to step down next year after seven years, was responsible for the decision: He was involved in the conversation that came to that determination. The senior investigating officer at the time, in terms of the officer in overall control, was the assistant chief constable. It was at that level.

Conservative MP James Clappison asked him: So the assistant chief constable referred it to the chief constable, and the chief constable agreed? To refer it to Ofcom?

Gormley replied: Yes. Asked whether anyone had been disciplined, he said: No, nobody has been.


21st October   

Update: Government less than Candid about Photography...

Police rules over public photography to be revised in November
Link Here
Full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state

Written answers Tuesday, 14 October 2008 Home Department Terrorism: Stop and Search

Dominic Grieve (Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers; Beaconsfield, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance her Department has given to the police on the exercise of their power under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to stop and search those taking photographs in public places.

Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary; Redditch, Labour)


Following a commitment given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in October 2007, the operational guidance issued to the police on section 44 is currently being reviewed by the Home Office, the police, community groups and other stakeholders. The National Police Improvement Agency will issue revised guidance to all police forces in November. This will cover the taking of photographs in public places, although the general position is that there is no legal restriction on photography in such places.


6th October   

Update: Going Logo Loco...

Scottish parliament to investigate Playboy branded goods
Link Here
Full story: Playboy Brand...Playboy's ever shifting logo and brand

The use of sexual imagery in goods aimed at children is to be investigated by MSPs.

The Playboy bunny logo on pencil cases and provocative children's T-shirt logos are among items which have prompted extreme concerns on Holyrood's equal opportunities committee. Later this year, the committee will meet retailers, trade unions, consumer bodies and children's organisations.

The committee is extremely concerned to read reports about the ever-increasing range of goods in stores which contain sexual images and which appear to be directly aimed at children, said the Conservative convener. Margaret Mitchell.

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