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UK Parliament Watch


2011: April-June

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30th June   

Update: One Stop Complaints Shop...

Lords committee reports that the relationship between the BBC Trust and Ofcom is too convoluted
Link Here

The BBC's complaints process is convoluted and overly complicated , a group of peers has said. The Lords communications committee said it was hard for viewers, listeners and web users to know whom to contact. and proposed a complaints one-stop shop .

Part of the problem was that the roles of the BBC Trust and watchdog Ofcom overlapped, the report added. And despite Ofcom having the final say in all other areas, the BBC Trust has responsibility for matters of impartiality and accuracy.

Peers said the BBC should set out a clear explanation of its complaints process on its website, so that licence fee payers knew what they could expect. There should also be a single point of contact for all complaints, regardless of whether they applied to television, radio or online material..

This situation - in which the BBC was judge and jury in its own case - was undesirable and should not continue, the peers said.

The committee called for all complaints to be made to the BBC in the first instance, followed by a right of appeal to the BBC Trust and a subsequent final appeal to Ofcom if the complainant was not happy with the trust's decision.

 

22nd June   

Update: Claire Perry and the Blockheads...

Fiona Mactaggart joins those calling for a blocked internet by default
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Labour MP Fiona Mactaggert has added her name to the call for internet blocking to be turned on by default.

They are whingeing that TalkTalk's network-level porn filter doesn't go far enough because it is only enable for those that request it.

Last year, Tory MP Claire Perry called for ISPs to block porn at source. TalkTalk responded with the launch of HomeSafe, a filtering system that claims to block adult websites or P2P file-sharing on all devices on the home network. TalkTalk claims 50,000 customers have already signed up for the opt-in filtering system.

Mactaggart and Perry have now repeated calls for the system to be switched on by default.

Frankly, the way to make sure we have this protection while still having choice is to have a network-level filter built in, said Perry: I still think that's the simplest way to do it. I remain convinced of that.

That view was backed by Shelia Eaton, president of the National Council for Women, who said such a filter needed to be on by default as parents often don't know as much about technology as their children .

However, Perry was contradicted by her senior Government colleague and Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, who said he wasn't fussed what sort of system the ISPs opted for, so long as he sees genuine action from ISPs to give parents easily accessible tools that [mean] that kind of content isn't seen by children .

The TalkTalk system was also welcomed by Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, who said parents just want a simple way to control what their children can access online. It's about offering parents the ability to stop their kids stumbling across this content, she said.

 

20th June   

Update: Geordie 'Fury'...

Nutter MP whinges about Geordie Shore
Link Here

Parliamentary questions will be asked about the use of alcohol by reality show contestants after an MP was 'outraged' by the drunken antics on Geordie Shore.

A parliamentary committee will debate whether shows like Big Brothera break Ofcom's rules over informed consent .

Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah has also asked for a debate about the guidance offered to broadcasters about giving booze to contestants. Onwurah's questions to the Culture, Media and Sport committee will be tabled after the summer recess.

Colin Shevills of alcohol charity Balance said: Programmes like Geordie Shore trivialise alcohol misuse, suggesting that drinking to the point of getting in a fight or becoming physically ill is amusing.

 

16th June   

Update: Calling for a Rethink...

MPs sign Early Day Motion to reconsider 3 strikes internet law bearing in mind a UN report critical of internet disconnection policy
Link Here
Full story: Digital Economy Act...Clause 11 grants government control of the internet

Disconnection Of Users From The Internet

Early Day Motion: EDM 1913

That this House welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on Free Expression, Frank de la Rue, to the Human Rights Council of United Nations; notes that he is alarmed by the Digital Economy Act 2010 and other three strikes disconnection laws and that he considers them to be a violation of freedom of expression; further notes the report's recommendation to repeal laws permitting disconnection of users from the internet; further notes that La Rue emphasises that web censorship should never be delegated to private entities, and that corporations should only act to block and censor with the authority of a judicial process; and calls on appropriate Parliamentary Select Committees and the Government to re-examine new website blocking proposals from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as part of the Home Office's Prevent strategy, and in sections 3 to 18 of the Digital Economy Act 2011 in the light of this report.

introduced by

  • Huppert, Julian: Liberal Democrats

signed by

  • Blenkinsop, Tom:  Labour
  • Bottomley, Peter: Conservative
  • Durkan, Mark: SDLP
  • Flynn, Paul: Labour
  • George, Andrew: Liberal Democrats
  • Halfon, Robert: Conservative
  • Joyce, Eric: Labour
  • Watson, Tom: Labour Party

Update: 102 MPs

18th July 2011

Now signed by 102 MPs

 

15th June   

Update: Old Joke...

Parliamentary committee resurrect the very old debate about Frankie Boyle's Katie Price joke
Link Here
Full story: Frankie Boyle...Whinges about Frankie Boyle and Mock the Week

The boss of Channel 4 has refused to apologise for airing a joke about Katie Price's disabled son.

At a heated parliamentary hearing, David Abraham was condemned for the decision to show it. But although he was repeatedly asked to apologise, he did not. Abraham said we only ever had satirical intent .

The joke about the former glamour model Jordan's son was made by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle on his Tramadol Nights series last year.

At a meeting of the Culture Media and Sport Committee, Tory MP Louise Bagshawe, repeated the joke and told Abraham: This is a disabled little boy we are talking about. I am bewildered you can sit here and say that it is challenging political correctness -- and that you will not apologise to the little boy for having put him on a television programme in this context. Surely no cultural remit could ever possibly justify such a joke?

Channel 4's chairman Lord Burns, also at the hearing, said: Personally, if it has caused distress to the son, then obviously I'm very sorry.

 

8th June   

A Newspaper?...

House of Commons Speaker comments on the Daily Mail
Link Here

The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has risked his political neutrality by describing the Daily Mail as a sexist, racist, bigoted, comic cartoon strip .

He also apologised for breaking the trade descriptions act by describing the Mail as a newspaper .

 

8th June   

Update: Libel Reform...

Approaching deadline for comments on the proposed bill to reform British libel law
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

The Government's draft bill is now being scrutinised by a parliamentary committee. The committee wants to hear opinions by their deadline of 10th June.

Whilst we are pleased we have a draft of the first wholesale bill since 1843, it doesn't yet deliver the substantial changes we need. There are four vital areas where the draft bill falls short:

  • Serious and substantial harm test.

    The bill has a proposal that there should be a test of harm before a case can go to court. We think this is a great idea, but the test needs strengthening to make sure that anyone threatened with libel will have the confidence to stand up to bullying and trivial claims.
     
  • The public interest defence.

    The draft does little to address the uncertainties that currently surround using a public interest defence, and the demands it makes to demonstrate responsibility are impractical for most writers, scientists and NGOs. We believe this could be easily addressed for writing that is on public interest matters by shifting the burden of proof to the claimant to prove the defendant acted recklessly or with malice.
     
  • The nature of digital publication. The draft does not tackle the problem that online intermediaries, such as web-hosts, which are neither authors nor traditional publishers, are forced to censor material for fear of liability. Currently a threat to intermediaries often results in blogs or scientific papers being taken down from websites, because the intermediary has no way of knowing the facts of the matter. We want to see a system that requires claimants to contact the primary author first, before intermediaries can be asked to take material down.
  • The prevention of corporations from suing for libel.

    Companies currently use the threat of a libel action to manage their brand and to close down criticisms of their products and behaviour. This is legal bullying and there are other ways companies can respond to criticism they think is unfair.

You can submit your thoughts here at call for evidence . The committee has set out a list of questions, and you can respond to some or all of those, or write your submission in your own way.

You can see the Libel Reform Campaign's submission at libelreform.org

 

31st May   

Preventing Abuse...

Campaign to remove 'insult' as justification for prosecution under the Public Order Act
Link Here

When Dale Mcalpine was arrested and charged for saying that homosexual activity is sinful in April last year, the charges were eventually dropped, but the Christian street preacher called for changes to the law that would make it possible to express religious opinion out loud in Britain without fear of arrest and prosecution.

Now there is a cross-party support for a change in the law that would remove a single word from the Public Order Act 1986 that has allowed Christians to be arrested when they offend the sensibilities of homosexual activists.

The amendment, that proposes to remove the word insulting from Section 5 of the Act, was tabled by Conservative MP Edward Leigh and is backed by the Liberal Democrat president, Tim Farron, and the Labour party's Tom Watson, a former Government Minister. Six more MPs from across the parties have signed.

The law currently outlaws threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour and behaviour that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress .

The existing wording of 'insulting' underpins much of the police abuse of this catch-all law. More or less anything can be construed as 'insulting' to someone, somewhere.

The MPs' attempt to ameliorate the situation in Britain has also received the backing of Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society (NSS), has said that there should be no objection to a change to make it more difficult for people to involve the law when they feel offended. He said: I think that most people who value free speech, and that's most democrats, would say that it's common sense to say that you cannot take offence and then call in the law to say my feelings must be protected.

I believe that removing the word 'insulting' would be enough to stop Section 5 being misused and generating a chilling effect on free speech, Leigh told the House of Commons. Section 5 is a classic example of a law that was brought in for one thing, fair enough, to deal long ago with a particular state of affairs, but in practice is being used for something quite different. It was brought in to tackle hooliganism, but is increasingly used by police to silence peaceful protesters and street preachers.

John Glen, Conservative MP for Salisbury, commented, To voice one's opinion without fear of punishment or censorship is a fundamental human right. Without it, political action and resistance to injustice and oppression are impossible. It is a precious right, and we must not allow it to be undermined.

 

28th May   

MPs Gone Wild...

Miserable MPs want to ban Girls Gone Wild tour
Link Here

Nutter MPs want to block an American TV show, which entices drunken girls on the street to strip off and perform 'lewd' acts in front of the cameras, from coming to the UK.

The show, called Girls Gone Wild , is produced by a Californian company that also makes pornographic films. Its producers want to bring a tour bus to Britain.

MPs from around the UK have claimed it to be exploitative and want the Home Office to ban the production company from operating here.

MPs from North East England believe the show's producers are likely to target the Newcastle area because of its reputation for drunken party-goers roaming the region's night clubs.

Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead, has tabled a motion in Parliament which has attracted widespread support from other North East MPs, including Pat Glass, MP for Durham North West and Mary Glindon, MP for Tyneside North.

The motion states:

That this House is deeply concerned that US pornography production company Mantra Films Inc is filming Girls Gone Wild in the UK, which approaches young women, many of them intoxicated, in public places, and encourages them to expose their breasts, simulate sex acts and have sex on camera in exchange for Girls Gone Wild merchandise.

It concludes that this is a form of demeaning, exploitative and casualised prostitution; and urges the Government to examine, as a matter of urgency, how it can protect young women and halt this attempt at sensationalist entertainment.

A spokesman for the Girls Gone Wild show said:

We are really excited about bringing the brand and its road show to the UK and we expect British young men and women to have a fantastic time at the events which are a really fun celebration of freedom and youthful expression.

 

28th May   

Update: Confused Message...

Nadine Dorries continues to push her abstinence nonsense
Link Here
Full story: Sexualisation...Sexualisation as reported by Linda Papadopoulos

We live in an over-sexualised culture and witness an unprecedented increase in the sheer volume of sexual imagery young children are exposed to on a daily basis.

Parents feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of overt sexualisation their children are exposed to. Who can blame them? A typical primetime TV hour contains 2.6 references to intercourse, 1.2 references to prostitution and rape, 4.7 sexual innuendos, 1.8 kisses and one suggestive gesture.

If girls and boys are taught only safe sex and the mechanics of sex in school, then something is missing. You wouldn't teach history and leave out the Middle Ages.

Teenagers should be taught to say No until they are truly comfortable. Dare I say it, that they wait for love and a stable relationship? How different a message would that be?

We should empower girls and boys who feel the weight of expectation upon them and give them a safe place to go.

Say No should be taught as an acceptable, natural option in a world full of confusing messages.

 

24th May   

Updated: Abstaining from the Real World...

Nadine Dorries proposes abstinence lessons for teenage girls
Link Here
Full story: Sexualisation...Sexualisation as reported by Linda Papadopoulos

Sex Education (Required Content) Bill,
House of Commons 4th May 2011

Motion for leave to introduce a Bill

Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes.

I am sure that many Members will be aware of the broadcaster Dame Joan Bakewell. I always had the impression that she and I were on separate sides of the political divide, but I was intrigued a year ago to read something that she had written in the Radio Times and in the newspapers, in which she said that Mary Whitehouse, who campaigned against declining moral standards on television, was right to fear that sexual liberation in the 1960s would damage society.

Dame Joan was a long-time and fierce opponent of Mary Whitehouse, and that is why her piece was intriguing. She has now changed her mind in terms of her opposition, saying that the freedom granted by the introduction of the pill has been abused, resulting in the sexualisation of young girls and the prevalence of pornography. She said:

The liberal mood back in the '60s was that sex was pleasurable and wholesome and shouldn't be seen as dirty and wicked. The Pill allowed women to make choices for themselves. Of course, that meant the risk of making the wrong choice. But we all hoped girls would grow to handle the new freedoms wisely. Then everything came to be about money---so now sex is about money, too. Why else sexualise the clothes of little girls, run TV channels full of naked wives, have sex magazines edging out the serious stuff?

In fact, in some newsagents now there are more sex magazines available than any other kind of magazine.

Dame Joan said that our society is saturated in sex: a typical prime-time hour on TV contains 2.6 references to intercourse, 1.2 references to prostitution and rape, and 4.7 sexual innuendoes.

Let us move on to look at some of the examples that are now available. Primark, a store that is frequented by many young girls, including my own daughters, was recently chastised for selling padded bikinis for seven-year-olds. Without going into too much detail, I am sure that everybody in the House understands why women would buy padded bikinis, but to make them available to and target them at seven-year-old girls seems to epitomise how far the sexualisation of young girls has gone within our society.

On 5 March 2010, explicit videos were shown in schools which depicted to seven-year-olds a cartoon graphic of a couple having sexual intercourse. This resulted in some children being removed from schools that showed those videos. It will not be a surprise to any mother, or parent, in the House that seven-year-old children do not want to see a cartoon of a couple having sexual intercourse. I have never yet met a mother who said, I want my seven-year-old to see cartoons of couples having sexual intercourse , so why on earth would schools think it appropriate to show such videos to seven-year-old children in the classroom? Some children were reported to be frightened, alarmed and disturbed by the videos.

In July 2009, a Sheffield NHS trust released into secondary schools---to children from the age of 11---a pamphlet which told them that sex every day keeps the doctor away. It also said that for too long experts have concentrated on the need for safe sex and loving relationships. Alongside this, there was a slogan saying that: an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away .

It also said: Health promotion experts advocate five portions of fruit and veg a day and 30 minutes' physical activity three times a week. What about sex or masturbation twice a week? This is a pamphlet going out to 11-year-olds at secondary modern schools in Sheffield.

We have to ask ourselves whether, in the midst of this kind of society, with the over-sexualisation of children, we have got our sex education in schools right. It is often argued that compulsory sex education and effective teaching of safe sex will help to tackle a high pregnancy rate among teenagers and underage children. Sadly, the evidence suggests that this is not the case. The British Medical Journal found that 93% of teenagers who became pregnant had seen a medical professional prior to the pregnancy and 71% had discussed contraception. The journal found that: teenagers who become pregnant have higher consultation rates than peers and most of the difference is owing to consultation on contraception .

According to data published by the Office for National Statistics in 2007, Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe, so we must be doing something wrong. That is why I am introducing this Bill.

I believe that the answer to ending our constant struggle with the incredibly high rate of teenage sexual activity and underage pregnancies lies in teaching our girls and boys about the option of abstinence---the ability to just say no as part of their compulsory sex education at school. I recently spoke to a 16-year-old who used these very disturbing words: The thing is, if you reach the age of 18 and you're still a virgin, and you meet somebody you'd like to be your boyfriend, he's going to think you're a freak. It never enters the minds of young teenage girls, who are taught in sex education classes about safe sex and about making their decisions on whether to have sex based on how they feel that day or on their wishes--- feelings and wishes are the key words---that they are empowered and have the ability to say no. That is not taught alongside information on making the decision based on their feelings and wishes and on safe sex , but it should be an equally viable option.

We have to re-examine thoroughly the content of sex education that is provided in schools, and consider whether what is currently offered is in the best interests of our children and society as a whole. Children learn about puberty and intercourse at the age of seven, and about pregnancy and contraception from the age of 11. Teaching a child of seven to apply a condom to a banana, without telling them that they do not have an obligation to go and do it, is almost like saying, Now go and try this for yourself. At no stage of the curriculum does the teaching cover anything about relationships and the option to say no. Girls are taught to have safe sex, but not how to say no to a boyfriend who persists in wanting a sexual relationship. They are given no guidance on that whatsoever.

In a letter to the Daily Mail, a 14-year-old, Josie Parkinson, described the sex education that she had received at her local secondary school: As a 14 year-old girl, I have had to attend four talks in the past nine months from a woman from a family planning clinic. I have been taught three times how to put on a condom; how easily pupils can acquire condoms free at a clinic; how to recognise sexually transmitted diseases and have them treated confidentially at a clinic; and that we do not need to tell our parents, GP, the police or anyone else in authority about being provided with contraception, or even having an abortion. There was not one mention of abstaining or any discouragement of sex.

For a girl or boy to have sex before 16 is unlawful, but they are told in school, It is unlawful, but it's okay. You can have the condoms anyway. They should be told, It is unlawful. You can have the condoms anyway, but why don't you consider, because it is unlawful, saying no and waiting until it is lawful? That just is not taught to girls at school.

One factor constantly ignored by society is that peer pressure is a key contributor to early sexualised activity among the children of our country. Society is focused on sex. Our sex education teaches children how to have sex, not how to say no to sex. We ignore at our peril the fact that many girls feel pressurised into having intercourse when they are far too young, when what they actually need is their childhood.

In our sex education programmes, we need to promote the notion of abstinence and all the advantages that it brings, such as self-respect and not making relationship mistakes. It needs to be seen as a safe alternative. We need to let young girls know that to say no to sex when they are under pressure is a cool thing to do; it is as cool as learning how to apply a condom. It is as important as all the other issues that they are taught in sex education. It has to be taught alongside everything else so that young girls can say, I have been told to say no.

The proposal to introduce the bill was passed 67-61

Offsite: Nadine Dorries Rants

19th May 2011. See  article from  blog.dorries.org , thanks to emark

Nadine Dorries again, winging about "the left" on Twitter, over objections to her girls-only abstinence plans:

Also includes this gem:

"Parents feel that the bombardment of sexual images and easy access to online porn, the availability of lads mags, the over sexualised adverts at bus stops and on the sides of buses, the incessant references to sex on prime time TV, the prodigious number of teenage magazines aimed at the very young which discuss sexual positions and techniques in graphic detail, the high street marketing and provocative perfume advertising billboards, to name just a few, all achieve one goal the over sexualisation of our young people at too early an age."

...Read the full  article

Update: Out of Time

24th May 2011.See  article from  christianvoiceuk.blogspot.com

Nadine Dorries's Ten-Minute-Rule Bill to include teaching on abstinence for girls in sex education, will not become law, Christian Voice has learned.

The Government have said that there is not enough time for the Bill to become law.

Minister of State for Health Simon Burns MP (Chelmsford) was asked by a constituent to support the Bill and help it become law. He replied:

Thank you for your email but I am afraid you are almost 3 weeks too late. The Ten Minute Rule Bill was debated on 4th May and I am sure you will be pleased to know that it past (sic) the first hurdle but it will not become law as Ms Dorries has named 12 January 2012 for a second reading debate and there is not enough time in this session for the Bill to progress to the statute book.

 

21st May   

Time Out...

Keith Vaz has another minor knock at video games
Link Here

Early day motion 1807: Video Games and Young People

Primary sponsor: Keith Vaz

That this House welcomes the call by Shigero Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario, for people to drop their joypads and venture out into the sunlight once in a while; recognises that video games have addictive properties; notes that children flourish when they undertake a variety of extra-curricular experience; further notes the current Hungarian EU Presidency priority of protecting minors from harmful audiovisual media content in media legislation; is concerned about the potential impact of violent video games on those under 18; and calls on the Government to ensure the purchase of video games by those under 18 is carefully controlled and that parents are encouraged to limit the amount of time children spend on video games.

Signed by 11 MPs:

Campbell, Ronnie Labour Party Blyth Valley1
Caton, Martin Labour Party Gower
Clark, Katy Labour Party North Ayrshire and Arran
Corbyn, Jeremy Labour Party Islington North
Dobbin, Jim Labour Party Heywood and Middleton
Hancock, Mike Liberal Democrats Portsmouth South
Hopkins, Kelvin Labour Party Luton North
Meale, Alan Labour Party Mansfield
Simpson, David Democratic Unionist Party Upper Bann
Tredinnick, David Conservative Party Bosworth
Vaz, Keith Labour Party Leicester East

 

23rd April   

Foundem Founder...

MPs debate Google's stranglehold on internet search
Link Here

British MPs have called for Google to be regulated as a dominant player in the Internet industry. The call follows a complaint by a British-based price comparisons company to the European Commission.

The MPs debated whether Google should be regulated in the context of its dominance as a search engine. The debate was prompted by the complaint by a British company, Foundem, to the European Commission. Foundem operates a price-comparison service for online shopping. According to the MP Dominc Raab, Conservative Member for Esher and Walton, Foundem has alleged that Google downgraded its search results, and acted anti-competitively in a way which was financially negative for Foundem.

Mr Raab accused the regulators, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading, of complacency. He called on them to take action against companies abusing dominance. Search engines are the gateways to the Internet, and with a 95% share, Google is in a dominant position. If Google does not allow consumers to access potential competitors via its search engine gateway, they will be choked out of the market-place he said.

Phillip Lee, member for Bracknell, pointing out that 90% of Britons use Google to find things online, accused Google of suppressing the growth of a business based in his consitutuency. I don't think that one company having that much power is good for industry

Ed Vaizey, the Minister responsible, gave his support to Foundem, but declined to take any further action because the issue is with the EU Commission.

 

12th April   

Romper Rant...

Jokey T-shirts with references to al Qaeda come to the attention of politicians
Link Here

Baby clothes with bad taste jokes about martyrdom and extremist Jihadist creeds have come to the attention of politicians.

Clothes and T-shirts with slogans referring to al Qaeda can be bought on the popular Cafepress website, which is run by a company based in California.

The items included a baby suit for newborn children carrying the slogan, Your 77 virgins are waiting for you in heaven so pull up your linen and start your grinnin, which refers inaccurately to the 72 virgins that are said to await Islamist martyrs in paradise.

Another baby suit declares, as for the disbelievers [Christians] they shall have an everlasting torture, a painful doom, while a one Ummah T-shirt was also available.

But Cafepress was also looking to cash in on those supporting the war on terror, with one T-shirt proclaiming, Take your jihad and shove it.

Another design printed on baby suits, T-shirts and even thongs was the slogan proud infidel. It was printed with two crossed machineguns and a target.

Based on article from dailyindia.com

British MPs have also called for a probe into the Californian website Cafepress, which is selling the clothes.

David Cameron has promised the Government will get a grip on extreme Islamism, the Daily Star quoted Robert Halfon Tory MP for Harlow, as saying.

 

2nd April

 Offsite: Incitement to Criminalise Everyone...

Link Here
Labour MP says police should clamp down on online incitement

See article from theregister.co.uk


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