Tele column 12th April 2019

This week the U.K. Government’s Home Office department published a white paper regarding ‘online harms’. It is a good document that manages to identify a range of areas where people are bullied, abused, exploited and put at risk. The rapid growth of social media and the associated technologies has far outstripped any governments ability to legislate for it. And as a result, those with the least moral compunction have forged ahead spreading their material far and wide. Children have been drawn in and, in many cases, have been abused as a result. Bullying once associated with the school playground now has access to the victims wherever they are via their mobile phones. Terrorist groups spread propaganda, gang culture is promoted, and disinformation undermines our democratic values. Historically governments have shied away from legislating in these areas and instead have relied on companies to self-govern. They have encouraged responsible behaviour but in far too many cases that has not been forthcoming. Currently the printed media and their associated web sites are bound by publishing laws but the same can’t be said for the legion of self-styled commentators on the web. They are not bound by any legal obligation and a loose code of conduct is not adhered to. The balancing act that the government must achieve is to regulate the internet without hindering free speech. The statutory duty of care that is being proposed by the UK Government does not do enough. Any respectable publisher will take full responsibility for its content and not hide behind anonymity. We don’t just need a culture of transparency we need it legally enforced.

 

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Oral question – Gambling [11/04/2019]

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that bookmakers comply with the £2 maximum unit stake on B2 gaming machines. (242184)

Tabled on: 08 April 2019

Answer:
Mims Davies:

The Gambling Commission has strong regulatory powers up to and including revocation of operating licences. The Government and the Gambling Commission expect industry to comply with both the spirit and the letter of the new regulations on B2 gaming machines to ensure that consumers continue to be protected from harm.

High-stake roulette-style products launched on 1 April by two high-street bookmakers were withdrawn the following day after a warning from the Gambling Commission. The Commission is continuing to investigate the circumstances and the operators could still face regulatory action. The Commission may also investigate key senior staff at bookmakers who are responsible for bringing those products to market.

The Government and the Gambling Commission will continue to monitor any such actions and will take action where necessary.

The answer was submitted on 11 Apr 2019 at 12:29.

 

Westminster diary w/b 1st April

Monday

My first business of the day in the chamber was Questions to the Home Office. I bobbed but didn’t get taken. A lot of members expressed their concerns that there continues to be a rise in right wing extremism in the United Kingdom. We have to be careful to not feed the beast but at the same time highlight the concern. It doesn’t help when hard line Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg MP retweets the far right neo-nazi AfD (Alternative Fur Deutschland).

Tuesday

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee took evidence from the United Kingdom Statistics Authority. The gathering of accurate data without political interference is vital to allow politicians to make good policy decisions. With that in mind there are grave concerns over how the retail price index and the consumer price index are developing. These indexes are used to guide pensions and inflation figures. I attended the UK Parliamentary Awards in the Speaker’s rooms. Earlier this year, I was a judge in this event. The award winners all managed to engage with parliament and elected members to raise awareness of specific issues in their communities. They were also actively seeking solutions. I met with a cycling lobby group to discuss the transport policy and the funding of cycling from a UK level as well as the requirements of Inverclyde.

Wednesday

I met with a range of organisations with concerns over the increase of Hepatitis C and HIV. While we discussed the UKs drug policy in general it was unanimously agreed that Drug Consumption Rooms were required and would have a beneficial effect on a range of drug related issues. I look forward to hosting a debate on drug policy reform at the SNP conference in Edinburgh later this month. The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, briefed all 35 SNP MPs on the Scottish Government’s plans regarding Brexit. Prime Ministers Questions was extremely dour. Despite the planned talks between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition they continue to act like two spoiled brats fighting over their toys. The continuing debacle over Brexit causes a great deal of disruption to the workings of parliament. Today, colleagues and I from across the House researched and prepared for a debate on the topic of ‘50 years of an at sea deterrent ‘. The debate was cancelled at the last minute as result of a vote that changed all the business for today. The non-political anoraks should skip to Thursday but for the rest of you this is a summary of what happened on Wednesday. The Bill, promoted by Yvette Cooper, requires the Prime Minister to bring a motion to the House of Commons to approve an extension to the Article 50 negotiating a period for withdrawal from the EU. Hilary Benn proposed an amendment to provide for another day of ‘indicative votes’ on Monday. SNP voted AYE and the vote was tied 310-310. The Speaker used his casting vote in line with precedent to maintain the status quo, so the amendment was defeated 310-311. At 7:00pm we had the second reading to allow the Bill to progress to the committee stage for amendments. SNP voted AYE and the Bill was carried 315 – 310. At 10:00pm we then had the ‘Committee of the Whole House’. There were a host of amendments and votes. At 11:00pm we had the third reading – to give the Bill final approval and send to the House of Lords. SNP voted AYE and the Bill was carried 313 – 312.

Thursday

I was on the Order Paper for questions to the Department for Exiting the E.U. so I was guaranteed (if there is such a thing at Westminster) to be taken. I asked what consideration had been given to freedom of movement regarding Scotland’s requirements post Brexit. The answer was that Scotland is just a small part of the UKs consideration. An accurate and enlightening response. Says it all really. I met with a statistics company to gain insight into how they operate within the political world. We agreed that all good policy is based on an evidence based approach, I was slightly surprised that they so readily agreed that Scotland needs its own statistics agency. I quickly went into sales mode and promoted Inverclyde as the location. And just as I thought there was an air of normality descending we realised there was water was running into the chamber from a burst pipe around the area of the press gallery. The rest of the day was consumed by covering chamber and ancillary work as I was on the rota for the day. I caught the 19:35 flight home.

Friday

The first Friday of every month is a planned surgery day. I was at the Auchmountain Halls, my constituency office and Wemyss bay station where I met with many constituents. After the shenanigans of the last few weeks and knowing the expected workload for next week it was a real joy to spend time back in Inverclyde.