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UK Parliament Watch

2009: Oct-Dec

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20th December   

Update: Video Recordings Bill...

Replacement video recordings law starts in parliament
Link Here
Full story: Video Recordings Act Erased...VRA was not properly enacted

The Video Recordings Bill 2010 had a first reading in parliament on 15th December. No debate was scheduled.

The bill doesn't seem to include any changes from the previous Video Recordings Act 1984.

The Bill will be fast tracked through parliament and the Adult Industry Trade Association suggest that it will be in place by the end of January 2010.


2nd December   

Music to the Nutter Ear...

Conservatives have a whinge at exempt from classification music videos
Link Here

The Conservatives have called on the Government to change the law which says that DVDs or videos primarily concerned with sport, religion or music do not have to carry ratings.

Recordings with content that is designed to inform, educate or instruct are also exempt from carrying warnings under the Video Recordings Act 1984.

The Conservatives warned that depictions of self-mutilation, erotic dancing, sex toys and drug use are now widely available to youngsters in music and sport DVDs.

As the law currently stands, videos in these categories are not classified and may be bought by anyone, regardless of age.

Under the Digital Economy Bill, the Government is reforming the Video Recordings Act to update the classification system for video games. However, Tory culture spokesprat Jeremy Hunt warned that ministers have failed to close the 'loophole'.

One DVD of the band Slipknot, which is freely available in stores and on the internet, glamorises self-mutilation by young people who are seen carving the name of the band on to their bodies. Enlarge violence graphic

Another music documentary American Hardcore: The History of American Punk Rock 1980 - 1986 contains references to raping a woman. The heavy metal group Black Dahlia Murder's DVD Majesty features the band members taking copious amounts of drugs.

Hunt said: It is good news that the age rating of potentially harmful video games is being put on a statutory basis. However, it is really worrying that the Government hasn't done more to close some serious loopholes for other harmful content. Shockingly, in some cases it is actually legal to sell this sort of thing to children.

A Department of Culture spokesman said: Music, sports or religious videos lose their exemption from classification if they depict sexual activity, mutilation, gross violence or other practices likely to cause offence. If unclassified videos are on sale when they shouldn't be, it is for the appropriate enforcement authorities to take action.


20th November   

Society Awash with Bollox...

One or Two cases suddenly becomes all kids watching porn
Link Here

Children as young as five are simulating sex acts at school because they are exposed to pornography on satellite television and the internet, a senior MP has claimed.

Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, said he had been told recently of the disgusting behaviour seen by teachers in primary schools. The Labour MP for Huddersfield complained that Britain is awash with material promoting sexual activity too early in life.

Addressing a Commons debate on the Queen's Speech, Sheerman told MPs: We are a country awash with focus on early sexual activity. I think it is very serious the access to pornography to children ... you go to infant schools now and teachers say to me: 'Children come here at five and six simulating sexual behaviour that they should know nothing about.' That is something pretty disgusting.

Sheerman said he was angered to read that Mr Murdoch and his son James Murdoch, chief executive of News Corporation in Europe and Asia, wanted to see BSkyB become more trusted than the BBC. He added: I had only read two days previously that not only is the Murdoch empire the biggest carrier of pornography in the world but have now bought a major supplier, maker of pornography in the US. I don't know what trusted and loved is but a company that puts that sort of filth, makes it available to children, does not impress me.

Our children should be protected from that sort of pornography whether it is on BSkyB or whether it is on the internet. I believe that childhood ought to be protected.


14th November   

Update: Britain Another Notch More Miserable...

Law passes final hurdles to criminalise sexual cartoons that may feature children (but its hard to tell most of the time)
Link Here
Full story: Lap Dancing License Change...UK lap dancing suffers repressive new licensing
Anime girl of indeterminent age

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

The UK Government bill introduced a clause in Coroners and Justice Bill to criminalise the possession of non photographic but pornographic images of children with draconian penalties of up to 3 years in prison.

This bill has now cleared all parliamentary hurdles with hardly any meaningful debate whatsoever. A couple of half hearted concerns that the bill may criminalise thousands of innocent people (Eg Hentai fans) were glossed over on a one in million possibility that paedophiles may work around existing prohibitions via use of animation.

Freedom of Speech rightfully retained for Religions to Spout Hateful Nonsense

Other portions of the bill caused a little more debate:

Base on an article from :

Yesterday the Government was forced to accept Tory Peer Lord Waddington's free speech clause which says that criticising homosexual conduct is not, in itself, a crime.

An offence of inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation was introduced by the Government last year, but the free speech defence, strongly opposed by the House of Commons, was inserted by former Home Secretary Waddington.

The latest round of votes took place this week with MPs voting to delete the clause on Monday and Peers voting to keep it.

Peers supported the clause by 179 votes to 135. In the House of Commons the Justice Secretary Jack Straw accepted the Lords vote. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the government was very disappointed at the Lords vote, adding: There is no doubt about the threshold of this offence. No freedom of expression section is needed to explain it. The threshold is a high one. The offence only covers words or behaviour that are threatening and intended to stir up hatred.

But she added the government could no longer delay the passage of the Coroners Bill. It is with considerable disappointment, therefore, that the government has agreed not to remove the freedom of expression section.


14th November   

Update: Britain Another Notch More Miserable...

Law passed to randomise and criminalise paying for sex
Link Here

UK courts are being prepared to handle
the new law

New measures to repress the public, increase police power and tackle crime and disorder were welcomed today by the Home Secretary Alan Johnson after the Policing and Crime Bill received Royal Assent.

New measures include the introduction of a mandatory code of practice for alcohol retailers, the creation of a new offence of paying for sex with a prostitute who has been coerced or deceived and the power for police and local authorities to apply for injunctions against people involved in gang-related violence.

Further measures include:

  • Giving greater powers to Local Authorities to restrict the opening and regulation of lap-dancing clubs;
  • Strengthening police powers to deal with young people drinking alcohol in public;
  • * Lowering the number of times premises can sell alcohol to young people before incurring a penalty and toughening the penalties for those premises;
  • * Making sure that those subject to football banning orders in England and Wales are also banned from attending regulated football matches in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • Increasing police powers to close premises associated with prostitution and pornography related offences for a set period;
  • Protecting vulnerable individuals by increasing the maximum duration of foreign travel orders, requiring those sex offenders banned from travelling anywhere abroad to surrender their passport, and increasing the penalty for the offence of failing to provide access to suspected encrypted indecent photographs of children;
  • Increasing the efficiency of the Criminal Records Bureau, and make amendments to strengthen the working of the new Vetting and Barring Scheme.
  • Making a number of small amendments to clarify HM Revenue and Customs powers;
  • Strengthening the arrangements for recovery of assets obtained through criminal means;
  • Improving the efficiency of arrangements for judicial co-operation between UK and its international partners.
  • Enhancing inter-agency co-operation in establishing airport security arrangements with greater clarity of roles and responsibilities;
  • Introducing a systematic regular assessment of how threats to airports are being mitigated;
  • Enhancing airport security planning at UK airports both locally and nationally as Airport Security Plans will help ensure more effective deployment of resources to mitigate threats;
  • Bringing in a consistent funding process for dedicated police activities at airports that ensures police authorities are reimbursed by airport operators for agreed dedicated policing costs, in turn benefiting the taxpayer.


14th November   

Update: Britain Another Notch More Miserable...

Law passed to restrict lap dancing licences
Link Here
Full story: Lap Dancing License Change...UK lap dancing suffers repressive new licensing

Roberta Blackman-Woods, the mean minded MP representing Durham, has welcomed the fact that the Policing and Crime Bill has passed its final parliamentary hurdle, with amendments between the two Houses of Parliament resolved.

The Bill contains provisions to restrict the licensing of lap dancing clubs, which Roberta campaigned for and persuaded the Government to include.

Blackman-Woods said : The new licensing regime will give local councils and local people far more of a say over the number and location of lap dance clubs in their area.

Despite Liberal Democrat amendments in the Lords supporting the lap dancing industry which would have substantially weakened the Bill, the Government held firm and made sure that local people would come first and that lap dance clubs would be subject to strict but fair licensing arrangements. The Government has also announced that it is conducting a review of the whole issue of 'Temporary Event Notices' which is something I have been pressing for.

I will be urging Durham County Council to adopt the provisions and use the powers this Act will give it to as soon as possible.


14th November   

Update: Gamers' Voice...

Tom Watson gathers a couple of MPs to support his Facebook group opposing nutters like Keith Vaz
Link Here
Full story: Call of Duty...Nutters wound up by warfare video game series

Gamers' Voice, the pro-gaming Facebook group set up by West Bromwich East Labour MP Tom Watson, has drawn support from another pair of UK politicians.

Watson, who setup the group in response to comments made by Leicester East Labour MP Keith Vaz, invited Sion Simon, Minister for Creative Industries, and Shadow Minister Ed Vaizey to check out the online group, which they both did. Both left messages of support for Watson and the group.

Vaizey wrote, Tom, congratulations on setting up the group. It's about time gamers had a voice to represent the huge success of the UK video games industry. We spend too much time attacking games and not enough time celebrating their huge success and contribution to the economy.

Simon added, The government understands the importance of video games. we make games better and play games more in this country than anywhere else in the world. It's an important industry and an important part of millions of people's lives. But it's a very young industry which is still finding its voice. I think this group is an important step in that process, and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Watson wrote of the pair, Sion and Ed are a little bit different to other MPs though. They both have responsibilities in Labour and the Conservatives for policies towards the Games Industry. And I think they're both genuine in wanting to help.


11th November   

Update: Free Speech is not For Sale...

Report from English PEN and Index on Censorship
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

After a year-long Inquiry, English PEN and Index on Censorship have concluded that English libel law has a negative impact on freedom of expression, both in the UK and around the world. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and should only be limited in special circumstances. Yet English libel law imposes unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on free speech, sending a chilling effect through the publishing and journalism sectors in the UK. This effect now reaches around the world, because of so-called libel tourism , where foreign cases are heard in London, widely known as a town named sue . The law was designed to serve the rich and powerful, and does not reflect the interests of a modern democratic society.

In this report, we cut through the intimidating complexity of English libel law to show how the legal framework has become increasingly unbalanced. We believe that the law needs to facilitate the free exchange of ideas and information, whilst offering redress to anyone whose reputation is falsely or unfairly damaged. Yet our inquiry has shown that the law as it stands is hindering the free exchange of ideas and information. We repeatedly encountered the same concerns, expressed by lawyers, publishers, journalists, bloggers and NGOs, who have no wish to abolish libel law, but know from experience of its chilling effect on legitimate publication.

In response to their concerns, which are set out below, we offer the following recommendations to restore the balance between free speech and reputation:

1. In libel, the defendant is guilty until proven innocent

We recommend: Require the claimant to demonstrate damage and falsity

2. English libel law is more about making money than saving a reputation

We recommend: Cap damages at £10,000

3. The definition of publication defies common sense

We recommend: Abolish the Duke of Brunswick rule and introduce a single publication rule

4. London has become an international libel tribunal

We recommend: No case should be heard in this jurisdiction unless at least 10 per cent of copies of the relevant publication have been circulated here

5. There are few viable alternatives to a full trial

We recommend: Establish a libel tribunal as a low-cost forum for hearings

6. There is no robust public interest defence in libel law

We recommend: Strengthen the public interest defence

7. Comment is not free

We recommend: Expand the definition of fair comment

8. The potential cost of defending a libel action is prohibitive

We recommend: Cap base costs and make success fees and After the Event (ATE) insurance premiums non-recoverable

9. The law does not reflect the arrival of the internet

We recommend: Exempt interactive online services and interactive chat from liability

10. Not everything deserves a reputation

We recommend: Exempt large and medium-sized corporate bodies and associations from libel law unless they can prove malicious falsehood


10th November   

Update: Call of Duty to Support UK Games Designers...

Tom Watson MP warns against Daily Mail moral panic
Link Here
Full story: Call of Duty...Nutters wound up by warfare video game series

A political row has broken out over a violent video game as fans eagerly await its release. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is expected to break sales records after going on sale at midnight.

Modern Warfare 2 , developed by US company Infinity Ward and published by Activision, is 18 rated in the UK and rated Mature (17+) in the US for its blood, drug reference, intense violence and language .

Labour MP Keith Vaz called for action to ensure that children cannot buy the 18-certificate game, while fellow Labour former digital minister Tom Watson said it would be better to support the UK's video gaming industry.

Watson said that although the game wasn't pleasant , it was better for MPs to support the many thousands of games designers and coders and the many millions of games users, rather than collaborating with the Daily Mail to create moral panic over video games.

Gamer's Voice

Thanks to eMark
See also article from

Tom Watson writes about Gamer's Voice Facebook Group:

Are you sick of UK newspapers and (my fellow) politicians beating up on gaming? So am I. The truth is, UK gamers need their own pressure group. I want to help you start one up.

I don't know how it should work yet but please register your interest if you agree that gamers need their voice hear in the corridors of power.

And if you have any ideas, please post them to the wall.


9th November   

Update: Pariah Britain...

US newspapers explain that libel tourism may lead to internet blocks to British Access
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

Britain's reputation for libel tourism is driving American and foreign publishers to consider abandoning the sale of newspaper and magazines in Britain and may lead to them blocking access to websites, MPs have been warned.

Publishers, human rights groups and campaigners have expressed substantial and increasing concern because comments that would be protected under the freedom of speech in the US constitution are actionable in London courts once published here, no matter how small the readership.

A memorandum submitted to a Commons select committee, ahead of a meeting with US publishers, states: Leading US newspapers are actively considering abandoning the supply of the 200-odd copies they make available for sale in London mainly to Americans who want full details of their local news and sport. They do not make profits out of these minimal and casual sales and they can no longer risk losing millions of dollars in a libel action which they would never face under US law. Does the UK really want to be seen as the only country in Europe indeed in the world where important US papers cannot be obtained in print form?

The submission is on behalf of a number of US media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and MacMillan (US), as well as Human Rights Watch, Global Witness US and Greenpeace International.


30th October   

Update: Nonsense Stays Protected...

Lords allow blasphemous libel to stand in Northern Ireland
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

The House of Lords debated on the 28th October 2009, Lord Lester's clause included in the Coroners and Justice Bill to abolish blasphemy in Northern Ireland.

The amendment was withdrawn. This means that the law stands as it is.

The feeling was that it is an issue that should be debated by the Northern Ireland Assembly rather than Westminster.


28th October

 Offsite: The Lords Giveth and the Lords Taketh Away...

Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth
Let's cheer the demise of criminal libel

See article from


27th October   

Update: Leading by Example...

Campaigners hoping for end to criminal libel claim success in the House of Lords
Link Here
Full story: Super Injunctions...Granting super powers to rich gaggers

Freedom of speech campaigners are claiming victory as the House of Lords is expected to back changes removing anachronistic laws which have criminalised libel for more than 700 years.

The changes, which will be debated as part of the controversial coroners and justice bill, repeal laws dating back to 1275 and allow extremely serious libel and sedition to be prosecuted in criminal courts. The laws have long been regarded as an impediment to freedom of speech and an anomaly in the UK, which has encouraged countries with repressive regimes not to conduct prosecutions for libel.

Agnes Callamard, executive director of campaign group Article 19, said: This will send a very strong and clear signal globally that democracies do not have criminal defamation laws. The government's admission that the law, which has been widely recognised as hampering freedom of press and political dissent, must change comes after increasing concern about clampdowns in other countries, including many states in Europe and the Commonwealth.

These common law offences are anachronistic and their continuing existence, albeit seldom used, has been cited by other countries as justification for the retention of similar laws, which have been actively used to restrict media freedom, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: The UK is committed to encouraging other countries to recognise and respect freedom of expression and the media must take the lead in abolishing these out-of-date offences.

There is also a debate about whether to extend changes to the law on blasphemous libel to Northern Ireland, where offensive remarks about the Christian church remain an offence.

There is now a grotesque situation in Ireland, said Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester QC. In the Republic of Ireland, there has been a rebirth of the offence of blasphemous libel for domestic constitution reasons, and in Northern Ireland we have not yet managed to get rid of it. God no more needs to be protected by criminal law in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain.

The government denied it was considering extending the repeal of blasphemous libel to Northern Ireland. The government believes that the Northern Ireland assembly is the best forum to consider this area of law as it relates to Northern Ireland, the Ministry of Justice said.


18th October   

Update: Age of Micro-Managed Lives...

Concern that age related internet sales restrictions can easily be extended to other products
Link Here
Full story: Elspeth Howe and Age Verification...Early UK bills to mandate internet age verification

A proposal that will force online retailers to take extra steps to ensure that young people cannot buy or access inappropriate goods or material will moves one step closer to becoming law. The Online Purchasing of Goods and Services (Age Verification) Bill was set receive its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday.

The Bill proposes making it a requirement for the providers of goods and services and the providers of specified facilities enabling the purchase of such goods and services to take reasonable steps, in certain circumstances, to establish the age of customers making such purchases . The proposed law refers to goods which it is already illegal to sell to people under the specified ages, such as 16 for cigarettes and 18 for alcohol.

It had previously been introduced in the House of Commons but ran out of Parliamentary time.

Some peers in the Lords raised objections to the Bill, though. The Earl of Erroll said that concerns over payments technology and over the scope of the Bill should cause concern: We must allow young people to buy things online. Many things are only obtainable that way nowadays - certainly the better bargains, he said. We must not outlaw methods of payment that will completely stop them buying anything.

The Earl of Erroll also warned that the Bill was in fact not just about age-restricted goods but gave Government the power to bar access to other materials: The second major problem refers to unconstrained powers. Clause 1(2) provides that the Secretary of State can make regulations that could extend to things that are not covered by legal ages or goods and services covered under current laws. The legal duty to comply with these laws already exists, and I do not think that Parliament should micromanage people in how they do these things. We should not be passing laws just to send a message. That is not a good idea.


17th October   

MPs Entranced by Woman Spinning on their Laps...

One off cases used to generalise across an entire industry
Link Here

Kat Banyard of the Fawcett Society told the Treasury select committee that city bankers' clients are often invited to meetings in lap dancing bars. City bankers entertain clients and try to generate business by offering trips to brothels, MPs heard today.

Kat Banyard of the feminist group the Fawcett Society told a Treasury select committee hearing into women's role in the City of London that there was a growing trend in the City to use prostitution to entertain clients.

We took extensive evidence from individual women who said it was becoming frequent for meetings to be held in lap dance clubs, and I also had women speak to me and say that prostitution was being used in client deals or in ways to generate business - and that all of this culture created a very hostile environment, as you would expect, for female employees of those firms, she said.

One former City worker told the Fawcett Society said that when she worked in the Tokyo office of the same company, her London-based colleagues would often bring British colleagues over to Japan for sex trips , where they would tell the company they were introducing clients to Japanese firms, but were actually visiting a number of seedy sex clubs.

It's a deeply troubling problem that needs to be discussed openly, Banyard said. If we're going to get more women into those institutions we need to change the culture before that happens.

There will be two more committee hearings, during which more evidence will be taken from people such as Harriet Harman, the minister for women and equality, and Trevor Phillips, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.


16th October   

Can we Keep our Hands off the Net?...

Parliamentarians ponder a rhetoric question
Link Here

An all-party group of MPs has recommended mandatory nanny filters for all mobile devices and data devices that can access the internet - and wants the UK's Internet Watch Foundation secretive censor system extended to the whole world.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Communications (Apcomms) today recommends: A global 'notice and take-down' regime is required, and if the IWF cannot provide it then someone else should.

The reason for given for mandatory net filters is that the default child protection settings are different on different mobile networks and different devices. This is unnecessarily confusing for parents, and so the report recommends that the industry move to a consistent, and 'safe', arrangement.

The Apcomms report Can we keep our hands off the net? considered the questions:

  1. Can we distinguish circumstances when ISPs should be forced to act to deal with some type of bad traffic? When should we insist that ISPs should not be forced into dealing with a problem, and that the solution must be found elsewhere?
  2. Should the Government be intervening over behavioural advertising services, either to encourage or discourage their deployment; or is this entirely a matter for individual users, ISPs and websites?
  3. Is there a need for new initiatives to deal with online privacy, and if so, what should be done?
  4. Is the current global approach to dealing with child sexual abuse images working effectively? If not, then how should it be improved?
  5. Who should be paying for the transmission of Internet traffic? Would it be appropriate to enshrine any of the various notions of Network Neutrality in statute?

Parliament and the Internet Conference

Based on article from

In his introductory comments to the Parliament and the Internet Conference, Ed Richards seemed to think that the transition of Ofcom from a Broadcast to an Internet regulator was inevitable, as content and viewing habits moved across, albeit it raised many questions of practicality.

He also spoke of the need to protect existing players as their traditional business models crumbled, while saying that legislation was needed to break the current spectrum logjam.

Later in the conference, Derek Wyatt MP summarised the main conclusions from the apComms report Can we keep our hands off the Net? - also all to do with self-regulation rather than government interference.

The day was, however, stolen by the delegates from the childrens IGF organised by Childnet. They went straight for the difficult issues that we were all avoiding: wanting open access with safety.

They pointed out that our technology dependent, safety-first, if in doubt block it , censored feeds to schools got in the way of their supervised project work - because they could not access main stream sources, let alone any of the blogged commentaries on them. But they also wanted effective facilities to help guard against 24 by 7 on-line bullying.


12th October   

Pattison and Brazier...

Comedy nutter act whinge about Saw VI
Link Here

Nutters are urging councils to bar horror film Saw VI as 'concerns mount' over its grisly content.

The certificate 18 movie, which has shocking scenes of murder and torture, is set for release at Halloween.

However local authorities are able to block films and Tory MP Julian Brazier has urged them to ban Saw VI .

He said: The British Board of Film Classification is passing more and more violent films.

But councils do have the power to ban such films and I welcome any taking this tough line.

Vivienne Pattison, director of Mediawatch, called for tighter controls. She said: Studies link exposure to film violence with violent behaviour. If there is the slightest chance that media violence can cause harm, is it worth the risk?

[always worth considering parallels with religion. Studies link exposure to religion with violent behaviour. If there is the slightest chance that religion can cause harm, is it worth the risk?]

But Sue Clark of the BBFC said: We believe adults should be free to choose their own entertainment.

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