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UK Parliament Watch

2011: July-Sept

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19th September   

Update: Reflections of China...

Social networking bosses appear for questioning by parliamentary committee
Link Here
Full story: Social Networking Censorship in the UK...Internet censorship set to solve Britain's broken society

Commons Home Affairs select committee, 11th September 2011

Following accusations that social media were used to play a key role in the social unrest in August, representatives from Research in Motion, Twitter and Facebook appeared for questioning by the Commons Home Affairs select committee.

Stephen Bates, Managing Director of BlackBerry's Research in Motion, Richard Allen, Director of Policy at Facebook and Alexander McGilvray of Twitter were questioned by the committee, chaired by MP Keith Vaz, regarding the role of social media in the riots which spread across the country in August, and the trio insisted that all three platforms were used as a force for good.

In the midst of the unrest, calls were made to shut down social networking, particularly BlackBerry messenger, as it was suggested that this was being used to organise violence. Cutting off Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry messenger in times of unrest seems no different to the censoring this kind of media experiences in China and oppressive countries over the world.

The committee heard that should it be necessary, all three of the representatives of the social media, who work within frameworks to condone with the law, would not resist closing down social media, but did not feel that it would be necessary.

Bates, Allen and McGilvray all said that throughout the unrest in August, social media were used in a positive way -- to contact family and friends to advise that users were safe, to help clean-up in the wake of the riots, and perhaps most importantly as a tool of communication, used to quell and correct rumours.

A key issue addressed by the committee was responsibility. Bates admitted that BlackBerry messenger had been used in a malicious way to organise crime, but stressed the need for balance when addressing the issue.

Keith Vaz advised that there may be times when closing down social media was necessary, asking Why should the government not use the powers to close down these networks if there is mass disorder and this is the only way to stop it happening.


14th September   

Update: Bringing Scotland into Disrepute...

Scottish justice committee discusses bill criminalising sectarian football chants
Link Here
Full story: Football Sectarianism...Sectarian Rangers football song wind up

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill has been discussed by Holyrood's justice committee.

The bill is the brainchild of Alex Salmond in his populist, attempt to crack down on the sectarianism, in those sections of society where the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic football clubs appears to dwarf every other aspect of life.

Serious though this problem is, the very name of this proposed legislation should be enough to ring alarm bells. We not only need to define what is offensive and to whom, but also what is threatening and to whom.

As the committee went all round the houses, going over and over the problem, and taking evidence from supporters' groups, academics and even a journalist, it was plain that the wrecking crews are already moving in on this bill.

Greig Ingram questioned the merit of criminalising some of the chants about his fellow Aberdeen supporters, asking: Would somebody chanting about my predilections for alleged activities with farmyard animals be offensive?

The only common sense at yesterday's hearing came from Dr Stuart Waiton, a lecturer in sociology and criminology at the University of Abertay, Dundee, who said such views were a beautiful example of how the bill risks creating an authoritarian and illiberal society .

The proposed law could bring the legal system into disrepute and undermine existing measures to tackle sectarianism, one of Scotland's leading historians has warned. Professor Tom Devine told MSPs that the sectarian problem is part of the fabric of Scotia and extends beyond football stadiums. Existing laws are perfectly adequate to crack down on the conduct targeted by the billl, the academic added.

Scotland is the only country in the world with specific anti-sectarian legislation on its statute book after religious aggravations were introduced in 2003, Holyrood's justice committee heard.

As is often the case,  opposition parties at Holyrood are terrified to be seen as going soft on the bigots, and are therefore going along with this nonsense.


12th September   

Update: MP Gordon Henderson Doesn't Believe in Censorship...

But then launches into a banal diatribe against internet porn anyway
Link Here
Full story: Harmful Content...2007 Parliament Inquiry: Internet And In Video Games:

Sittingbourne and Sheppey Tory MP Gordon Henderson said unrestricted access to the web and a lack of parental responsibility had created an everything is free mentality among a minority of young people.

He is one of more than 60 members of a cross-party group involved in a Parliamentary inquiry into online child protection.

He spouted:

There's a risk of children being groomed by strangers on the internet but it's a relatively low risk because most young people have the nouse to not get sucked in. The danger of the internet is more insidious than that.

It's the slow seeping of access to porn images that then slowly erodes the moral fibre of young people, which in turn adds to the social problems we currently face. Much of what we saw with the rioting and looting was due to a breakdown in morality among young people.

Easy access to the internet just reinforces the message that everything is free and you never have to work for anything. That's got to change.

There's the possibility we overreact and I'm not a great believer in censorship or an internet clampdown. Most children are sensible enough to not put themselves in dangerous situations ...BUT... there are others who are vulnerable and need protection.

The inquiry has got to look more at parental responsibility and access to the internet rather than a censorship of the internet itself.


10th September   

Update: Nutter Talking Shop...

Claire Perry's parliamentary inquiry hears a few views on the subject of online child protection
Link Here
Full story: Harmful Content...2007 Parliament Inquiry: Internet And In Video Games:

The Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection has begun to take comments from a rather predictably selective group.

The committee has heard comments from the Lucy Faithful Foundation, the Mother's Union, YoungMinds, Marie Collins Foundation, Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at LSE, Jacqui Smith,  the Sun's agony aunt Deidre Sanders and Jerry Barnett, managing director of the UK's largest adult VOD site.

Jacqui Smith, the disgraced former Home Secretary, had a few ideas that caught the interest. She told the Inquiry that online pornography should be made harder to access in Britain, but that the quid pro quo for helping the industry to remain profitable might be that it could help fund sex education programmes for children.

She said that the online pornography industry is not illegal, and it is being impacted by free and unregulated content on the internet . She proposed that if all adult content were only accessible to customers who specifically opted in to it through their internet service providers, then the adult industry might see its profits improved. Online porn has suffered economically in the wake of free YouTube-style sites.

She added after the inquiry. If there are restrictions put on to what people can see, that will have a beneficial effect on the industry. If government or ISPs put in place restrictions that does enable the mainstream industry to [recover economically], that would be the point at which you could apply pressure.

Smith was keen to stress that she did not propose limiting or censoring legal pornography, but that she wanted to make sure only people who were allowed to see it could do so. I genuinely don't think mainstream pornographers want young people to see their material because it risks limiting what they can make for adults, she said. She conceded that her proposal may be technically challenging.

She said that the adult industry was already in a parlous state and that it would be unlikely to be able to fund education programmes at the moment. She said that although the chances of her proposals coming to fruition are not great, there are reasonable people in the porn industry .

The committee will take evidence from ISPs next month.


29th July   

US Laughs While UK Censors...

The Daily Show On More4 censored for using parliamentary TV coverage in a satire
Link Here

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has a Global Edition that condenses 4 US episodes into one programme. But this week, even the Global Edition didn't make it on to British TV screens nor catch up TV.

Blogger Chris Spyrou noticed it and brought it to the attention of the TV writer Graham Linehan, who asked Channel 4 about it. A tweet from Channel 4 Insider, the broadcaster's official presence on Twitter, called it compliance problems .

The full reason, tweeted a short while later, was this: We are prevented by parliamentary rules from broadcasting parliamentary proceedings in a comedic or satrical context.

The user @fiatpanda later uncovered this response to a Freedom of Information request from Channel 4, which stated:

Guidelines specify that no extracts from parliamentary proceedings may be used in comedy shows or other light entertainment, such as political satire. But broadcasters are allowed to include parliamentary items in magazine programmes containing musical or humourous features, provided the reports are kept separate.

The scene in question was David Cameron facing tough parliamentary questions about phone hacking being compared to anaemic questioning that occurs in the US version of parliament.


23rd July   

Updated: Extreme Reach...

Scottish extreme porn 'sex offenders' will have to continue notifications when living elsewhere in the UK
Link Here

Draft Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2011

House of Commons
Third Delegated Legislation Committee
12th July 2011

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): I beg to move,


I suggest that the draft order, which was laid before the House on 22 June, be approved. I propose to provide the Committee with an explanation of what the draft order seeks to achieve. It is made under section 104 of the Scotland Act 1998, which allows for necessary or expedient changes to UK legislation in consequence of an Act of the Scottish Parliament. It is made in consequence of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.


The 2010 Act also ensures that a person will be made subject to the sex offender notification requirements when they are convicted of the offence of possession of extreme pornography. The draft order will extend that provision as a matter of law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, thus ensuring that a person made subject to the notification requirements as a result of conviction for possession of extreme pornography in Scotland cannot evade the requirement to register by moving elsewhere in the UK.

Question put and agreed to.

The order will commence on 1st August 2011.

Update: Explanation

23rd July 2011. Thanks to Harvey

The succinctly titled "Draft Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2011" is really just a tidy-up.

The requirement to notify (commonly called The Sex Offenders Register) is a provision of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. That Act applies the whole of the UK. The SOA 2003 contains a schedule (3) which lists the specific offences which trigger the requirement to notify. The Scots are simply asking the UK Parliament to change the schedule to their 2003 Act so that the Scottish offence will be included and thus the notification requirements will be triggered and apply, UK wide, for a person convicted of that offence.

The SOA was similarly modified to include the DPA offence in Schedule 3. The DPA offence applied only to England, Wales and NI, but since it was made in the UK Parliament and the SOA applies to the whole of the UK, it was all accomplished with the text of the DPA, rather than requiring a separate tidying-up order so that a person convicted of the English offence would be required to notify even if they moved to Scotland.

Since the amendment simply includes a new Scottish offence to the schedule, it would not appear to change anything in the present law as it affects persons convicted of offences in England, Wales and N. Ireland.

Update: Passed in Lords Committee

12th September 2011. From

The amendment has now been passed in Lords Committee with the comment:

The 2010 Act also ensures that a person will be made subject to the sex offender notification requirements when they are convicted of the offence of possession of extreme pornography. The order extends that as a matter of law in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. That ensures that a person made subject to the notification requirements as a result of a conviction for possession of extreme pornography in Scotland cannot evade the requirement to register by moving elsewhere in the United Kingdom.


15th July   

Office of BBC Communications...

Lords committee reports on the governance and regulation of the BBC
Link Here

The convoluted and overly complicated complaints process at the BBC must be improved, say the Lords Communications Committee in a report. The Committee has conducted an inquiry into the governance and regulation of the BBC, and have identified a number of areas of governance that the BBC needs to upgrade.

Concerns over the mechanisms for complaining are raised by the Committee, which learned of the many different processes for varying types of complaint, making it very difficult for viewers, listeners and users of BBC content to know where to go to complain. This must be resolved. The BBC needs to provide a clear overview of how the complaints process works and publish this in one place on its website and there needs to be a clearing house to direct people through the complaints process.

The confusion is in part because the BBC Trust and Ofcom have overlapping jurisdiction in several areas of content regulation, with the exception of issues of impartiality and accuracy and commercial references, which the BBC Trust regulates. In particular, because the BBC should not remain judge and jury in its own case, the Committee wants the BBC and Ofcom to consider granting Ofcom the right to regulate the BBC on matters of impartiality and accuracy.

In addition, the Committee say that:

  • Creativity must not be allowed to be stifled by overly bureaucratic compliance culture .
  • Best practice for programme making needs to be established to ease concerns that it isn't always clear to viewers what is reality, reconstructed and constructed footage.
  • Greater clarity is needed on the governance role of the Non-Executives on the on the BBC Executive Board, and the Non-Executive Directors at the BBC to be recruited from a wider range of backgrounds than they are presently.
  • The Government, the BBC and the National Audit Office (NAO) should work together to agree on terms of access for the NAO to the BBC, ensuring that the NAO does not comment on any matters of broadcast content or journalistic integrity which should be entirely off limits.

Commenting on the report, Chairman of the Communications Committee, Lord Inglewood said:

Ultimately the BBC needs to be accountable to those who use and pay for it, at the same time as having the independence of its journalism, broadcasting and creativity protected from outside political interference. There are a number of ways that its systems and processes need to be improved, some of which can be done relatively quickly. The new Chairman of the BBC, Lord Patten of Barnes, is set to review issues of BBC governance this summer and we urge him to consider our recommendations as part of his review.


15th July   

Internet Bill of Rights...

MPs call for better privacy protection for personal data accessed via the internet
Link Here

Early day motion 2004
Primary sponsor: Robert Halfon

That this House is deeply concerned that privacy is gradually being eroded by private companies using the internet to obtain personal data and selling it for commercial gain; notes that the latest problem is with WPP Group plc, the advertising firm, which claims to have built up individual profiles for half a billion internet users across the world, including allegedly almost 100 per cent. of British people; further notes that secret monitoring of internet users is already a huge issue, with data scraping and cookies monitoring people without their consent; believes an internet bill of rights is needed to guard against the growing infringement of civil liberties that are not covered by existing legislation; and further believes that the Information Commissioner lacks the powers necessary to protect personal data and has done precious little to protect our privacy in recent tests such as the Google Street View project.

Signed by

  • Campbell, Gregory Democratic Unionist
  • Campbell, Ronnie Labour
  • Corbyn, Jeremy Labour
  • Davidson, Ian Labour
  • Dodds, Nigel Democratic Unionist
  • Edwards, Jonathan Plaid Cymru
  • Halfon, Robert Conservative
  • Hancock, Mike Liberal Democrats
  • Leech, John Liberal Democrats
  • Lewis, Julian Conservative
  • Llwyd, Elfyn Plaid Cymru
  • McCrea, Dr William Democratic Unionist
  • McDonnell, John Labour
  • Meale, Alan Labour
  • Simpson, David Democratic Unionist
  • Stringer, Graham Labour
  • Williams, Roger Liberal Democrats


6th July   

Update: Playschool Statistics...

Floella Benjamin quotes bollox statistic in support of ISP internet blocking
Link Here
Full story: Reg Bailey Report...Mothers Union boss pens governement report

One in five eight-year-olds has seen nude images while surfing the internet, according to Baroness Floella Benjamin, the Liberal Democrat peer and former children's television presenter.

Lady Benjamin said children needed protection from exposure to harmful content. She called on Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, to introduce new safeguards.

In a recent survey, 20 per cent of eight-year-olds said that they had seen nudity online, Lady Benjamin told peers during a House of Lords debate.

She asked Baroness Rawlings, the Tory spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport:

Are you aware that on the most popular websites children are exposed to advertising of an adult nature and are invited to explore links to very explicit websites?

If so, will the Government consider encouraging Ofcom to take further measures to protect children and young people being targeted in this way by putting in place simple and practical steps so that online media owners can take action to prevent clear-cut examples of inappropriate content appearing in places where children are likely to see them?


4th July   

Update: Destroyed Childhood...

Denis MacShane joins the MPs calling for one size fits all internet blocking
Link Here
Full story: Reg Bailey Report...Mothers Union boss pens governement report

Denis MacShane made a name for himself by spouting bollox about trafficking to the UK, quoting ludicrously overhyped estimates as to the extent of the problem.

Predictably he has now come out in favour of internet blocking and has urged Ministers to launch a 'crackdown' on children's access to hardcore internet porn which he said destroys childhood.

MacShane said that he wanted to see restrictions on how adult content can be accessed on computers and smartphones used by children. He has joined other MPs in calling on BT, Sky, Virgin, TalkTalk and Orange to make it impossible to access hard-core porn unless the user completes a screening process to confirm their age.

MacShane, always quick to believe any old bollox, said: At meetings with the communications minister Ed Vaizey, we heard reports that children in primary school were watching on average eight minutes of hard-core porn a week. This sexualisation of children destroys childhood and encourages a degrading image of girls and women as the sex objects of males.

Comment: Control Freaks

From Shaun:

When will people learn that it is for parents to prevent kids watching smut, if necessary by putting the computer in the living room.

Just a bunch of fucking liars and control freaks the lot of 'em. Labour and Conservative. I want none of the above putting on ballot forms, and the number of people voting for that on public record.

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