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UK Parliament Watch

2010: April-June

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30th June   

Extreme Injustice...

Extreme porn ban set to become law in Scotland
Link Here

MSPs are poised to pass nasty law reforms defined by the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill.

The legislation brings in a number of new criminal offences, including specific action to tackle stalking, people forced into slavery or servitude and possession of extreme pornography .

The bill also aims to  widen the powers of licensing boards and standards officers.

MSPs will also vote on an amendment brought forward by SNP backbencher Sandra White MSP on greater restrictions for lap dancing clubs.


11th June   

Parliament Playing a Nutter Game...

Keth Vaz retains the chair of Parliament Home Affairs Committee
Link Here

Keith Vaz who so notably blames all the worlds ills on computer games has retained his chairmanship of the Parliament Home Affairs Committee.

A fascinating achievement for an opposition MP who often gets linked with sleaze.

The Times has a knock with:

Keith Vaz, the MP for Leicester who was suspended from the Commons in 2002 after the Standards and Privileges Committee found that he had given them misleading information - has been made chairman of the Home Affairs committee.

The Daily Mail put together quite a piece on Vaz:

Truth about Keith Vaz and crooked lawyer: Sleaze scandal as Labour MP tries to take charge of crucial committee

Controversial Labour MP Keith Vaz was at the centre of a sleaze scandal last night after bombshell evidence emerged of his favour-for-a-favour relationship with a corrupt lawyer.

A Daily Mail investigation has found that Shahrokh Mireskandari treated the MP's wife Maria Fernandes and their young daughter to a weekend jolly in Rome - just weeks before Mr Vaz intervened in a potentially ruinous court case on behalf of the solicitor.

...See  article from


25th May   

Comment: Redressing the Balance...

Lord Lester to introduce libel reform bill in the Lords
Link Here

The right of free speech is a central democratic principle. But so too is the right of individuals to be protected against libel and defamation of character. The job of the legislature and judiciary is to balance those conflicting freedoms. In England, that balance has become skewed: libel law gives robust protection to reputation, but it increasingly does so at the expense of freedom of speech.

The Government is aware of the problem. Nick Clegg has indicated that the coalition will review the libel laws. It is fortunate, then, that on Thursday a Private Member's Bill will be published that offers an ideal model for reform. Lord Lester of Herne Hill will bring a Defamation Bill before the House of Lords that aims to modernise and simplify the law in several respects. It would bring up to date the defences available for those being sued for libel. It would require claimants to show real harm before they could sue. It would demand that corporate claimants must prove actual damage. And it would make the normal mode of trial one of a judge sitting alone, rather than a jury.

Lord Lester's Bill also contains measures to cope with the advent of the internet. At the moment, foreign claimants are pursuing cases in the UK courts based on the fact that articles published on the world wide web can be downloaded here. Every time an article is downloaded, it constitutes a new publication, which resets the one-year limitation period for libel actions, a law that dates from 1849, when the Duke of Brunswick made law by sending his valet to obtain a 17-year-old back copy of the Weekly Dispatch to sue for defamation.

This is not a Bill to promote irresponsible journalism, or to placate newspapers whingeing about libel. It seeks to restore the right balance between those who pursue public interest reporting and those who seek to defend themselves from malicious attacks. If nothing is done the result will be increasing self-censorship, because of the uncertainty over what constitutes fair comment and because of the size of damages that can be awarded, which Lord Lester's Bill seeks to limit.


20th May   

Erotic Awards Winners 2010...

Link Here

Congratulations to Anna Arrowsmith as joint winner of an Erotic Award in the Politician category.

Also known as British pornographer Anna Span. Anna stood at the May General Election and increased the LibDem share of the vote in the Gravesend constituency of Kent .

She is to be admired for competing successfully in a man's world of porn and gaining much publicity which brings greater acceptance and understanding of pornography in society.


Congratulations also to Chris Davies MEP as joint winner in the same category.

A longstanding campaigner for legalisation and regulation of prostitution. Chris posted a note on Facebook claiming the new legislation would lead to police resources, which should be used to tackle violent men and people trafficking, being used to ruin the lives of consenting adults.

He accused the Government of making up statistics on sex trafficking to support the new law. He even organised a fringe meeting at last year's Liberal Democrat party conference to give sex workers a voice.


12th May   

Update: Snobs...

Elitists complain about bans on naked 'art' but are hardly supportive of ordinary guys enjoying adult entertainment
Link Here

Some of the country's most celebrated arts bodies have welcomed clarification to new laws designed to crack down on lap-dancing clubs which would have inadvertently prevented them from staging shows featuring nudity.

Nationalist MSP Sandra White has put forward an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill going through Holyrood which would allow local authorities and licensing boards to ban lap-dancing venues in their area.

But organisations such as Scottish Ballet and the Festival Fringe Society had warned that under plans to tighten licensing rules, renowned shows featuring nudity, such as Nic Green's Trilogy , could have been pulled.

Cindy Sughrue, Scottish Ballet's chief executive, had urged the committee to carefully consider the wording of White's amendment, given the potential unintended consequences for theatre companies, who would be unable to show iconic works by world-renowned directors and choreographers.

She said: Nudity, as defined, would rule out presentations of some of the most powerful performance work of the 20th and 21st centuries, including numerous acclaimed productions created and presented in Scotland, including at the Edinburgh International festival.

At a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's injustice committee, politicians echoed such concerns. Robert Brown, Scottish Liberal Democrats justice spokesman, said: For theatrical performances, I'm not sure it presents as clear exemptions as one would hope.

Bill Aitken, his Tory counterpart and the committee's convener, agreed. I do have serious reservations and I don't think the issue of theatrical performances has been satisfactorily resolved.

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill told the committee that while communities should be allowed to refuse permission to license the clubs, the government had significant concerns over Ms White's amendment. He said: There are drafting difficulties with the amendment which will have to be addressed.

Ms White accepted an offer of assistance to clarify her amendment, meaning the government will now draft a tighter licensing regime which will come before MSPs when the bill is considered by the full parliament at its final stage.


4th May   

Dangerous Hopes...

Tories plan bonfire of Labour's crap laws
Link Here

David Cameron has unveiled a detailed blueprint for the first days of a future Conservative government as the polls suggest he is on course to win the largest number of seats in the general election.

In a Sunday Times interview, the Conservative leader revealed the four pieces of legislation that would dominate his debut Queen's speech.

The centrepiece of the Tories' Queen's speech, to be held within the next month if the party forms a government, would be a great repeal bill .

This would scrap ID cards, home information packs and dozens of rarely enforced criminal offences introduced by Labour over 13 years.

Hopes that the Dangerous Pictures Act may be on the bonfire list

Thanks to freeworld

Douglas Carswell MP and Daniel Hannan MEP drew up a " great repeal bill " a couple of years ago, a blueprint of legislation which should be scrapped.

Carswell seems to be saying that Cameron's announced "legislation bonfire" has a basis in their "Great repeal bill", so it may be of interest to people here who haven't seen this document -

The notorious "Dangerous Pictures Act" in Straw's "Criminal justice and immigration act" of 2008 is listed, and they say this section of the act should either be abolished or "carefully amended", so the definition satisfies the tests of "consent or direct harm". It's the inclusion of patently fictional material for possession, even of clips from classified movies which cannot be real by definition, which are the worst aspects of the DPA.


4th May   

Update: Amendment 516...

Restricting lap dancing in Scotland
Link Here

On 13 April 2010, the Justice Committee from the Scottish Parliament decided to issue a call for evidence for amendment 516 [pdf] which equates lap dancing licensing with that of sex shops.

The amendment was put forward by Sandra White MSP (SNP) for Glasgow.

Amendment 516 changes the 1982 Civic Government (Scotland) Act   of control of sex shops. The original act states that local authorities can decide how many sex shops can be in their authority and that the potential sex shops must advertise their intention to apply for a license. The effect that this has had is that some local authorities rejecting all applications for a sex shop license. In Glasgow, for example, the guidance notes for sex shop applications reads:

Be advised that, in the past, applications for a sex shop licence have been refused on the grounds that the committee felt that the number of sex shops for the locality (ie. Glasgow) should be nil.

It's also worth noting that the licence costs £12,000+.

The Scottish Parliament's justice committee will consider the plan this week.

Glasgow Council's Community and Safety Services arm has urged MSPs to accept White's amendment, saying lap-dancing was a form of violence against women . The letter said: Intelligence would suggest that these venues are in fact linked to, and part of, the sex industry and selling of sexual services does occur in some clubs. The council said the current licensing regime was ineffective , and added local authorities must have the option to refuse to license such establishments .

The bid is reported to have backing from Scottish Women's Aid, the Scottish Coalition Ag-ainst Sexual Exploitation, and Scottish Women's Convention.

Councillor Jim Coleman, acting head of the council, said: We view lap-dancing as a form of sexual exploitation which degrades women and also contributes to public nuisance problems.


21st April   

Major Legislation without Consultation...

Scottish amendment to criminalise buyers of sex voted out
Link Here

A mean minded bid to introduce sweeping new laws criminalising all aspects of prostitution has been defeated in the Scottish Parliament. 

Labour MSP Trish Godman's amendment would have made it an offence to engage in, advertise or facilitate paid-for sexual activity, whether it was on the streets or indoors.

The plan won the support of the committee's three Labour members, but was voted down by its five MSPs from other parties. 

Godman ranted: As I speak, men are buying sex from prostitutes, men are raping women who are trafficked, they have no fear, they will never get caught because it is not an offence. We need to send a strong message that buying sex is not harmless or acceptable, that it should be regarded in Scotland as an abuse and an exploitation which will not tolerated. I would argue that we owe it to all women who are victimised by prostitution to do what we can now.

At present, kerb crawling is illegal in Scotland but prostitution is not, and prostitutes are arrested only if they are suspected of causing a breach of the peace.

The Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland, prostitutes' support agency Scotpep and Independent MSP Margo MacDonald had all warned that the amendment could drive prostitution out of the relative safety of flats and saunas and on to back streets, putting women at greater risk.

Community safety minister Fergus Ewing, who attended the justice committee meeting, said: The government is concerned about making substantial changes to the law in this difficult, complex and sensitive area without proper consideration and consultation, with all the issues involved. Rushing through a major change to the law of prostitution through amendments, without any proper consultation and with very limited time for consideration, is a bad idea.

The amendment was also criticised for being added to the already wide-ranging Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, and without having had specific consultation on the ramifications of a change in legislation on prostitution.

Ruth Morgan Thomas, of Scotpep, said the amendment would have sought to criminalise an estimated 5,000 women working in the sex industry in Scotland. She also said that a law against facilitating the purchase of sex would potentially lead to receptionists, hotel porters and even taxi drivers being charged and convicted.


16th April   

Amendment 516...

Scottish amendment to restrict both lap dancing clubs and private sex with one's own partner
Link Here

On 13 April 2010, the Justice Committee from the Scottish Parliament decided to issue a call for evidence for amendment 516 [pdf] which equates lap dancing licensing with that of sex shops.

The amendment was put forward by Sandra White MSP (SNP) for Glasgow. The amendment is one of several hundred put forward to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill , which also contains the extreme pornography law and amendment relating to the criminalising the purchasing of sexual services.

Amendment 516 changes the 1982 Civic Government (Scotland) Act   of control of sex shops. The original act states that local authorities can decide how many sex shops can be in their authority and that the potential sex shops must advertise their intention to apply for a license. The effect that this has had is that some local authorities rejecting all applications for a sex shop license. In Glasgow, for example, the guidance notes for sex shop applications reads:

Be advised that, in the past, applications for a sex shop licence have been refused on the grounds that the committee felt that the number of sex shops for the locality (ie. Glasgow) should be nil.

It's also worth noting that the licence costs £12,000+.

Glasgow in particular has had a long history of making life difficult for adult entertainment venues and it should come of no surprise that Sandra White had spoken out against lap dancing clubs in the past . Opponents of lap dancing issued a £7000 report by Julie Bindel in 2004 to prove lap dancing was bad. But in the past, Glasgow's prejudices did not seem to affect other cities, such as Edinburgh. This new amendment will drag all of Scotland into Glasgow's sex-negative way of life .

What is most disturbing about the lap dancing amendment is that, like so many other laws, it is so poorly written that it could potentially extend beyond its original intent. Sandra White and Glasgow Council are quite obviously dead against adult entertainment venues. But this law could potentially call your own bedroom an adult entertainment venue!

In the amendment, an adult entertainment venue is defined as any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used for a business with an audience of one or more that any live performance or display of nudity (which includes breasts on a woman or pubic area on either sex) that is provided solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience . Where this gets tricky is the little bits of (whether by verbal or other means) and ignoring financial gain.

Women taking their clothes off and dancing in an erotic way in front of a paying audience of men is the target. Ideally, I should be able to put on a strip show for my partner in the comfort of my own home. But is this allowed here? I'm not doing it for money, but we are ignoring financial gain . I'm only doing it for my partner, but audience includes an audience of one . I'm doing it in my own home, but the location is any premises. In other words, every time I expose my breasts to my partner, I would be committing a crime under this law. Even worse, I can't even verbally describe an erotic fantasy or read a published (and wholly legal) erotic story to my partner because it would count as a live performance of the verbal kind that is sexually stimulating.

Another bit of brilliant legislation from the Scottish Government in an effort to stop people from enjoying sex.

This news has been brought to you by CAAN Scotland.


9th April   

Hughes Views...

Violent DVDs and video games exert a negative influence on nutter MPs
Link Here

In a debate lead by Labour MP Diane Abbott on London gang crime at Westminster, MPs linked the problem of increased knife crime to the prevalence of violent video games and movies.

Speaking of a Home Affairs Committee report on knife crime, Liberal Democrat MP and former party leader candidate Simon Hughes stated: The report then makes a controversial point, but I believe that it is true – evidence supported our view that violent DVDs and video games exert a negative influence on those who watch and play them.

Fortunately subsequent talk of possible action on the subject focused more on the fight against knife possession as opposed to a possible crackdown on gaming.


8th April   

Update: Bongo Republic Lawmaking...

Digital Economy Bill completes in the Commons
Link Here

The government forced through the controversial digital economy bill with the aid of the Conservative party last night, attaining a crucial third reading - which means it will get royal assent and become law - after just two hours of debate in the Commons.

But despite opposition from the Liberal Democrats and a number of Labour MPs who spoke up against measures contained in the bill and put down a number of proposed amendments, the government easily won two votes to determine the content of the bill and its passage through the committee stage without making any changes it had not already agreed.

Tom Watson, the former Cabinet Office minister who resigned in mid-2009, voted against the government for the first time in the final vote to take the bill to a third reading. However the vote was overwhelmingly in the government's favour, which it won by 189 votes to 47.

Earlier the government removed its proposed clause 18, which could have given it sweeping powers to block sites, but replaced it with an amendment to clause 8 of the bill. The new clause allows the secretary of state for business to order the blocking of a location on the internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright .

The Labour MP John Hemming protested that this could mean the blocking of the whistleblower site Wikileaks, which carries only copyrighted work. Stephen Timms for the government said that it would not want to see the clause used to restrict freedom of speech - but gave no assurance that sites like Wikileaks would not be blocked.

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman for culture, media and sport, protested that the clause was too wide-ranging: it could apply to Google, he complained, adding that its inclusion of the phrase about likely to be used meant that a site could be blocked on its assumed intentions rather than its actions.

Video game censorship is now set to migrate from the BBFC to the Video Standards Council (VSC) using European-wide PEGI ratings.


7th April   

Update: Bongo Republic Lawmaking...

Tories agree to pass internet censorship bill without debate or opposition
Link Here

The digital economy bill (DEB) looks set to become law after the Conservative shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, gave the controversial legislation his support during its second reading in the Commons.

However, Hunt said during the DEB debate that if a Tory government is formed after the 6 May general election it would drop any flawed legislation.

The digital economy bill could have been massively improved if there had been more scrutiny at the committee stage … why is it debate on such a critically important bill has been left to the last minute? Hunt asked MPs during the debate. There are parts of the bill that we will reluctantly let through. Digital piracy is a very real problem for our creative industries ... We do accept that action needs to be taken to ensure the internet is a functioning marketplace and that copyright infringers do not get away with their actions scot free.

Conservative support has been seen as crucial because the fast-track wash-up process of negotiations only deals with unopposed legislation.

If the DEB is voted through the Commons late tonight, the wide-ranging legislation, which includes controversial measures that could see the internet connections of illegal filesharers suspended or copyright-infringing websites blocked, will head to the last minute wash-up period of fast-track negotiations before parliament is dissolved later this week. The Bill also grants the BBFC powers to revoke video certificates and transfers video game censorship from the BBFC to the VSC.

Harriet Harman said that after the general election a super affirmative process, which includes a full public consultation, would be undertaken to address any issues before the bill passes into law.

Critics of the bill, which include the Open Rights Group, the Liberal Democrats and internet service providers, argue that legislation of such importance is not being enough time to be properly scrutinised and have called for it to be re-introduced in the next parliament.

This bill is the victim of one of the worst lobbying scandals of this parliament, said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. Parliamentary scrutiny must be applied. Over 20,000 voters have written to MPs and raised funds for adverts, because we know disconnection of families for allegations of copyright infringement is a draconian punishment, and need to be fully debated, not rammed through at the last minute.


1st April   

Update: Win Bonuses...

MPs block shortcut to limit lawyers fees in libel cases
Link Here

A Statutory Instrument that would have reformed costs in English libel cases was stalled at committee stage tonight after several Labour MPs voted against their party whip to bock a reduction of lawyers' success fees from a 100%mark-up to 10%.

Chris Mullin, Peter Kilfoyle, Tom Watson and Jim Sheridan and Conservative Julie Kirkbride acted against the move. Watson and Kilfoyle have both taken advantage of Conditional Fee Agreements in past court cases. Other Conservative MPs abstained from the vote.

The proposal will now go to a full parliamentary vote.

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