Dods at Party Conference 2018

Labour | Conservatives | SNP

23 October 2018
Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt has branded the Saudi government’s explanation for Jamal Khashoggi's death as not “credible”, as he warned Britain was prepared to step up action against the regime.

The Foreign Secretary said the UK will act accordingly if the “appalling stories” being reported are proven to be true, after acknowledging Britain’s close security and business ties with the Gulf Kingdom. Turkish government sources have said the journalist was tortured and murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a "hit squad", however Saudi Arabia’s official claim is that Mr Khashoggi died in a fist fight. Addressing the Commons, Mr Hunt said the UK condemned the death "in the strongest possible terms". “We have an important strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia involving defence and security co-operation which has saved lives on the streets of Britain,” he told MPs. “We also have a trading partnership that supports thousands of jobs. “So whilst we will be thoughtful and considered in our response, I have also been clear that if the appalling stories we are reading turn out to be true, they are fundamentally incompatible with our values and we will act accordingly...
23 October 2018

MPs have criticised the Government for failing to take on board swathes of recommendations made as part of a move to tackle the scourge of fake news.

Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee chair Damian Collins said he was “disappointed” ministers had accepted just three proposals from a total of 42 the group had made, while four were thrown out outright. It comes despite the committee’s interim report warning that the UK faced a democratic crisis around the manipulation of personal data. The group called on ministers in July to hand a raft of new powers to the Electoral Commission, such as bigger fines, and an increase regulation of Twitter and Facebook. However in its latest response, the Government rejected proposals for a new tax on social media firms and a mooted change in the rules around political spending online. The committee also hit out at ministers for not responding to the suggestion of an audit of the advertising market to identify fake social media accounts. And it accused them of “hiding behind ‘ongoing investigations'” by failing to address its recommendation that the National Crime Agency urgently...
23 October 2018
Chris Grayling at Conservative party conference

The Transport Secretary has been blasted after it emerged that an official in his department advised a rail firm to keep its compensation scheme for passengers “low key”.

Commuters were battered by delayed and cancelled services this summer after a botched timetable shake-up, with 470 trains a day axed on the GTR network. But correspondence obtained under freedom of information laws revealed that an official in the Department for Transport told a rail company not to publicise a compensation scheme set up by GTR to reimburse those affected by the travel chaos. One message from the Department urged GTR to make the scheme known to “passengers and stakeholders, not media”, while another advised the company to "keep this low key". The move was blasted by former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, who told the Telegraph: "If this letter is authentic, the official should be immediately dismissed unless it was an instruction from a higher authority. “And if it came from ministers, Parliament should be told, because this appears to be an...
23 October 2018

MPs face an "impossible task" in scrutinising all the tweaks to British law that are needed in time for Brexit, a new report has warned.

Ministers have estimated that between 800 and 1,000 statutory instruments (SIs) will be needed to ensure there are no holes in the UK's statute book before EU laws are repealed on exit day on March 29 next year. But new analysis by the Hansard Society has found that just 71 - or 9% - of those tweaks have been made with less than six months to go until Britain is due to quit the bloc. Following a furious row with MPs over the use of SIs - which can be passed without going through the full scrutiny process - ministers agreed to let parliamentary committees oversee the host of tweaks and flag up any controversial changes. But the Hansard Society warned that a lack of progress means MPs may have to be bypassed completely in order to get Britain's statue book in shape for Brexit. Hansard Society director Ruth Fox told The Times: "If the government does not...
23 October 2018
Philip Hammond

Philip Hammond may no longer have to raise taxes to help pump extra cash into the NHS after being handed a £13bn windfall in the public finances.

The Treasury had been ordered to find ways to increase NHS spending by £20bn a year by 2023-24, with the Chancellor telling aides that "nothing is off the table" to fund the rise. But, in a major boost for the Chancellor which may help stave off rebellion on the Conservative benches, the Office for Budget Responsibility is expected to slash its borrowing forecasts by around £13bn this year, according to the Financial Times. The revision marks the biggest year-on-year change in borrowing forecasts since the data was first produced in the 1980s. The change will radically alter Britain's borrowing projections through to 2022, allowing the Treasury to fund a significant chunk of the NHS cash boost over the next five years without hiking taxes. Next week's Budget comes at a perilous time for the Government, with Tory Eurosceptics and the Democratic Unionist Party threatening to vote it down in a show of...
23 October 2018

SNP MP Ronnie Cowan writes ahead of his Westminster Hall debate on Drugs policy: ‘the UKs drug policy should be a health issue not a criminal justice one’.

Maybe in an ideal world everybody would be so happy and content, so free of stress and anxiety, so confident and assured that there would be no requirement for alcohol or indeed any recreational drugs. But we are not there and we never have been. Throughout history for a variety of reasons people have taken drugs. A hundred years ago, you could buy cocaine, heroin or morphine in pharmacies and department stores. During the First World War, Harrods sold kits with syringes and tubes of cocaine and heroin “For the boys on the front line”. That was under what was termed the ‘British System’. It was a light touch approach to drug consumption. One of tolerance and treatment. But in 1971 through the misuse of drugs act criminalisation became the name of the game. The result has been years of violence, tensions, organised crime and a monumental increase in addiction. On the up side, recently we have seen a change in the U.K. Government’s approach to cannabis. From a stance that said ‘...
23 October 2018
Two older people in a care home

96% of respondents to recent poll backed calls for tougher penalties for crimes against older people. Given this strong public backing, and the very real need for this change, Giles Watling MP is using his Adjournment Debate to call for elder abuse to become an aggravated offence.

Elder abuse is a terrible and poorly understood crime. At its heart is an ‘expectation of trust’ that an older person may rightly establish with another person, but which may be subsequently violated, leading to physical, financial, psychological, and sexual abuse. There are around one million victims of elder abuse every year in the UK, and despite this troubling statistic, this issue is often overlooked at the national level. In Parliament there have only been a handful of mentions in recent years, even though this is a real and growing concern for many people across this country – including my own constituents, 32.4% of whom are aged over 65. That is why I will be using an Adjournment Debate tomorrow to draw attention to this important issue, and this is just the start of the Parliamentary awareness campaign that I have planned. Because it is only by properly understanding elder abuse that we as MPs can hope to tackle it. And when it comes to elder abuse, I am talking about all...
23 October 2018
A woman uses her laptop and mobile

Tech companies have a duty of care towards their consumers, and while some companies recognise the impacts they are having, no industry should be allowed to mark its own homework, says Ged Killen MP.

Get off your phone! It’s rare that you get through the day now without having that told to you, you telling it to someone else or simply hearing it in other people’s conversations. Last September the iPhone celebrated its tenth birthday. At the time my first thought was, really, is it just ten years old? This I think wasn’t a sense of misjudging the passage of time, but instead reflecting on the behavioural, social and cultural impact of the smartphone revolution which began with the iPhone and wondering, could all of these changes have happened in just ten years? The urge to check your phone when you’re waiting for a friend to arrive, bored, when watching TV or even at dinner, for many (and I include myself in this), is like a new muscle reflex. When you forget your phone and you feel the absence of its weight in your pocket or bag, it feels like a lost limb, rather than simply a missing piece of technology. To many of us our phones and other items of personal technology mean a...
23 October 2018
Online pornography

Ministers should treat pornography as a major public health issue to combat the harassment and abuse of women, MPs have said.

The cross-party Women and Equalities Committee said the rise of explicit images online could be fuelling a "relentless" culture of harassment of women and girls and urged the Government to take it as seriously as smoking or road safety. In a new report, they call for new laws to tackle image-based sexual abuse, including the creation of so-called 'revenge porn' and the sending of unsolicited “dickpics”. A 2018 YouGov poll found that 41 per cent of younger women had received lewd images without their consent, with 23 percent finding the images “distressing”, and 17 per cent saying they viewed the messages as “threatening”. The MPs also urge ministers to make it harder to view pornography in public places, including by forcing bus and rail operators to block access on public WiFi. Committee chair Maria Miller said it was “not acceptable” for women to have to change their behaviour to avoid being harassed. “Sexual harassment in public place is a regular experience for many women and...
23 October 2018

Paisley and Renfrewshire North SNP MP Gavin Newlands writes ahead of his Westminster Hall debate on 'Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Systems and the Green Deal'.

During the cold winter months, millions across the UK struggle as fuel poverty begins to bite. For too many this means a choice between feeding the family or turning on the heating, a choice that no one should have to make.  Often it is those that find themselves in leaky, uninsulated, and energy inefficient homes that can’t afford their heating. Thanks to the UK Government’s brutal and ideological austerity measures, warm homes are becoming further and further out of reach. National Energy Action have found that around 3.5 million homes in the UK are in Fuel Poverty. This is absolutely unacceptable in 2018. The UK Government launched its Green Deal policy in 2013, aimed at tackling the UK’s growing deficiency in fuel inefficient housing. The scheme gave fuel poor households access to finance to improve their homes and sought to greater energy efficiency and reduce bills. Yet the policy has failed dramatically. A good idea in theory that has been devastating in practice. The...