Dods at Party Conference 2018

Labour | Conservatives | SNP

19 November 2018

Theresa May today admitted the final Brexit date could be pushed back to the next general election - amid claims the UK could be tied to EU rules for another four years.

The Prime Minister said it was “important” that the so-called implementation period should end before the country goes to the polls again in 2022. Her comments appear to contradict her Business Secretary Greg Clark – who this morning said the UK should have the choice of extending the implementation for the whole of 2022. The transition - currently scheduled to last between the exit date of March 2019 and December 2020 - will see the UK remain tied to most EU rules in a bid to smooth its withdrawal from the bloc. But reports emerged last night that EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier discussed adding a full year to the interim period with ambassadors from the remaining EU 27 member states. The extension is thought of as a way to keep the Northern Irish border open in case no future trade deal is agreed - and would serve as an alternative to the so-called 'backstop' plan which is hated by Brexiteers. Mrs May has previously said the implementation period...
19 November 2018
Lucy Powell has secured cross-party support for her Online Forums BillLucy Powell has secured cross-party support for her Online Forums Bill

Hidden social media groups are acting as echo chambers for hate and threats of violence, Labour MP Lucy Powell fears. She tells Elizabeth Bates why MPs must take action and back her Online Forums Bill 

Getting Jacob Rees-Mogg to back her bill could prove too tough of a challenge for Theresa May, but not for Labour’s Lucy Powell. The Manchester Central MP has won a diverse spread of cross-party support for a fresh effort to tackle the proliferation of hate speech, fake news and radicalisation online. Her focus is on hidden social media groups, which are inaccessible to everyone but their members and can become dangerous echo chambers of misinformation, aggression and discrimination. The Online Forums Bill, she explains, would remove the anonymity of moderators, making them responsible for any hate speech or defamation which occurs under their watch. The legislation would also force platforms to publish information about secret groups. “The last time there was a piece of legislation in this space was in 2003, before Facebook even existed,” she says. “As politicians perhaps, we are at the frontline of it a lot more than others, but I have been alarmed over the past couple of years...
Elizabeth Bates
19 November 2018

Cabinet minister Greg Clark has risked infuriating Brexiteers by suggesting extending the Brexit transition period until 2022 is “an option”.

The Business Secretary said the period - in which the UK and EU will maintain a broadly similar relationship the one they have now - could run on until 2022 in order to give more time for negotiators to strike a full trade deal with the bloc. It is currently due to expire by December 2020, but Tory Brexiteers fear the option of extending contained in Mrs May’s draft Brexit deal could cost taxpayers billions in extra payments while keeping the UK in the single market and customs union. But speaking to the BBC Today Programme, Mr Clark said there was “value” in having the option if negotiations on the future relationship were only “weeks and months” from being completed when the proposed transition ends. He said: “It would be at our request and that would be a maximum period and it would be for this purpose: if the negotiations are making good progress but haven’t quite been finalised, to have the option, and it would be an option for us and there is value in having an...
19 November 2018

The House of Lords should begin the process of reducing its size and capping the total number of peers as a matter of urgency, MPs have said.

The Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said the Upper House should make headway on the Burns Report’s proposal to take the number of peers down by 200 over 11 years. The committee backed capping the number at 600, as recommended, and a 15-year term introduced for new peers. The group, who also supported the ‘two-out one-in’ principle to cut back on members, said the growing size was affecting the Chamber’s ability to function effectively. Chair of the Committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin, said: “The Burns report presents an opportunity to take the most obvious next step in the evolution of the House of Lords. “The House of Lords is of vital importance to the UK’s political system, carrying out important scrutiny and revising functions, but it is a problem that the size of the Chamber continues to grow exponentially. “My Committee is calling for the number of peers to be reduced, and then capped, at 600, as recommended in...
19 November 2018

Jeremy Hunt has called on Iran’s government to stop using innocent dual-national Britons as political prisoners.

The Foreign Secretary will urge the regime to release British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held since April 2016 after she was accused of spying. His visit to the republic marks the first of a western leader since the United States pulled out of a nuclear deal and imposed sanctions earlier this year. Ahead of the trip, Mr Hunt said: “We must see those innocent British-Iranian dual nationals imprisoned in Iran returned to their families in Britain,” “I have just heard too many heartbreaking stories from families who have been forced to endure a terrible separation.” “So I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country's leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage.” Mr Hunt is set to meet with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zarif on the trip, with whom he last spoke at the time of the United Nations General Assembly in September. He will raise concerns around Iranian support for Shia Houthi rebels...
19 November 2018

Ministers' oversight of cybersecurity threats is “wholly inadequate” in the face of a “potentially devastating” major attack on Britain's infrastructure, a powerful parliamentary committee has said.

The Joint Committee on National Security Strategy (JCNSS) said the Government had failed to act with “a meaningful sense of purpose or urgency” on growing threats from the likes of Russia. The body called on Theresa May to appoint a dedicated cybersecurity minister in the Cabinet to build national resilience and lower the risk of attacks on sectors including energy, health services, transport and water. The joint committee said ministers had assessed a major cyber attack on the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI) as a “top tier” threat with potentially “devastating” consequences. "As some states become more aggressive and non-state actors such as organised crime groups become much more capable, the range and number of potential attackers is growing," it said. It warned that the 2017 WannaCry attack - which had not directly targeted the NHS - had “greatly affected” the health service and shown the significant consequences that attacks on UK infrastructure could have....
19 November 2018
Consultant analysing a mammogramConsultant analysing a mammogram

Labour Peer Baroness Massey calls for increased access to breast cushions to help women avoid discomfort and pain during mammograms

Breast screening is an important part of women’s health. More than two million are screened every year. It saves one life for every 200 screened – more than 1,300 a year. Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women, yet some do not return for check-ups because of the pain involved in the procedure. Some find it excruciating. They can feel faint or stop the examination, and some feel sore afterwards. To obtain accurate readings, the mammography machine needs to compress the breast. Pain especially affects women with dense breast tissue. The breast cushion is a soft foam pad which is placed between the woman’s breast and the mammography machine, resulting in in a more comfortable experience. Designed by a female breast surgeon, each cushion costs about £2 each. Most women I have asked in the UK have never heard of these cushions. I was alerted to them by a neighbour who has lived in the Netherlands, where they are routinely on offer during mammograms. On returning to...
19 November 2018
The coastal communities that struggle are part of a bigger problem, writes Lord BassamThe coastal communities that struggle are part of a bigger problem, writes Lord Bassam

The decline of the British seaside is far from inevitable or a permanent feature. But we need to invest in better connectivity and a more inclusive economic model that spreads wealth and opportunity, writes Lord Bassam 

We all have a fascination for the British seaside and all that goes with it; no other nation quite reveres the seaside like we do. The advent, however, of cheap charter flights and cut-price package holidays from the 1960s onwards cast a long shadow over the Victorian and Edwardian legacy of the seaside as a holiday destination of choice for UK residents. Slow to respond, many of our premier resorts went into sharp decline. In recent years the British seaside has begun to recover its interest and allure for visitors, tourists and day trippers alike. In truth, we Brits never fell out of love with our coastline. So as a timely reminder of this, the House of Lords decided to establish one of its year-long ‘task and finish’ select committees to look at what works to regenerate seaside and coastal economies. We report next March – just in time to face the new economic realities of post-Brexit Britain. So how is seaside Britain faring? Although too early to be definitive, it is clear that...
19 November 2018
Lucy Powell has secured cross-party support for her Online Forums BillLucy Powell has secured cross-party support for her Online Forums Bill

Hidden social media groups are acting as echo chambers for hate and threats of violence, Labour MP Lucy Powell fears. She tells Elizabeth Bates why Parliament must take action before it’s too late

Getting Jacob Rees-Mogg to back her bill could prove too tough of a challenge for Theresa May, but not for Labour’s Lucy Powell. The Manchester Central MP has won a diverse spread of cross-party support for a fresh effort to tackle the proliferation of hate speech, fake news and radicalisation online. Her focus is on hidden social media groups, which are inaccessible to everyone but their members and can become dangerous echo chambers of misinformation, aggression and discrimination. The Online Forums Bill, she explains, would remove the anonymity of moderators, making them responsible for any hate speech or defamation which occurs under their watch. The legislation would also force platforms to publish information about secret groups. “The last time there was a piece of legislation in this space was in 2003, before Facebook even existed,” she says. “As politicians perhaps, we are at the frontline of it a lot more than others, but I have been alarmed over the past couple of years...
19 November 2018
Keya, 13Keya, 13

There is a crisis in our world’s classrooms: more basic than the availability of teachers or books, with massive impact on children’s health, attendance and ability to learn, says Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid.

One in three schools around the world do not have decent toilets, and one in five primary schools have no toilets at all – leaving small children with no choice but to hold it in all through their lessons, or venture out to a corner of the playground or a nearby bush. That is the daily reality of 620 million schoolchildren around the world: the equivalent of almost double the population of the United States, denied their human right to sanitation each time they sit down at their desks, or don’t go to school because there is no toilet. It’s not hard to imagine the impact of this situation: the filthy environment makes children ill, leading to high absenteeism and poor learning. This worsens when girls begin menstruating if they have no safe, private, hygienic space to care for themselves; often they miss lessons completely for several days a month, rather than risk the embarrassment and shame of a leak in front of their classmates. For hundreds of thousands of children each year, it...