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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Tory MP admits net porn 'fascination'

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  • MP admits net porn 'fascination'
  • Blair called for jury service
  • MP apologises for 'stupid' error
  • Redwood warns of UK Parliament's end
  • Birt issues digital warning

    MP admits net porn 'fascination'

    A Conservative MP has admitted logging on to internet pornography sites from the Commons after a constituent's complaint about children's access to them.

    New Forest West's Desmond Swayne told MPs it was only the Commons division bell that stopped him from lingering with a sense of "fascination" over a porn site.

    He stunned MPs with his comments as he told them that following the constituents' complaint he, "in an idle moment upstairs in my office, accessed the internet and within a few seconds was able, without any ingenuity at all, or indeed any use of passwords and security, able to access quite a number of pornographic sites".

    Most of the material was "little more titillating" than the phone cards offering sexual services in telephone booths across London, though he was also "able to access some very disturbing material, profoundly corrupting material which I think is extraordinary that it's so easily accessible".

    MPs made noises of disquiet as he said: "I began myself to feel the powerful nature of that corruption, because within moments, of course, I could have established my ability to access that material and moved on, but I found myself lingering with a sense of fascination over it."

    He asked ministers to look at whether it was "desirable or technically feasible" to take measures which would restrict the access of pornographic material to vulnerable people.

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    Blair called for jury service

    Prime Minister Tony Blair found himself called up for jury service in Thursday when he received a summons from the jury officer at Southwark Crown Court, London.

    The letter, addressed to Anthony C Blair at the flat at 11 Downing Street, told him his attendance was required at 9.15am on 12 June on pain of having to pay a fine if he did not turn up without having a valid excuse.

    The prime minister's official spokesman, Alastair Campbell, said it appeared that Mr Blair's name had been chosen at random by computer from the electoral register.

    But he will not have to enter any excuse as a Member of Parliament, and also as a barrister, Mr Blair is already disqualified from jury service.

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    MP apologises for 'stupid' error

    A Labour MP who fell foul of an arcane Commons rule has said she made a "very stupid" mistake.

    Crosby MP Claire Curtis-Thomas inadvertently derailed a debate on plans to allow private operators to run the Mersey Tunnels by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Ms Curtis-Thomas, who was sponsoring the controversial Bill, was in the wrong seat when the clock struck seven on Wednesday night, signalling the start of the scheduled three-hour debate.

    She was unable to reach her place on the Labour benches just yards away before Deputy Speaker Michael Lord ruled she was too late and a discussion of the government's Utilities Bill continued instead.

    The MP said on Thursday: "I feel very angry and very stupid. I didn't sleep at all last night worrying about what had happened.

    "I feel I have let everyone down. This was a tremendous opportunity for Merseyside which has been lost by my foolish error."

    Under the rules of the House, an MP who is outside the lines marked on the carpet at either end of the Chamber is technically outside it and cannot participate in the debate.

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    Redwood warns of UK Parliament's end

    Former Tory minister John Redwood is warning that a new European Union treaty due to be signed in June will end parliamentary government in the UK.

    Speaking on Wednesday Mr Redwood told the euro-sceptic Bruges Group that the new treaty will create a European superstate.

    He said the Nice treaty would take away the UK's right to independent action over defence, taxation, immigration and criminal justice.

    Mr Redwood said: "The proposed Nice Treaty would do what Guy Fawkes failed to do - blow up parliamentary government in Britain.

    "Conservatives must pledge to oppose it lock, stock and barrel, and renegotiate it if Labour signs."

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    Birt issues digital warning

    Business and the government have been urged to join the digital revolution sweeping the globe by the former director general of the BBC, Lord Birt.

    Lord Birt, a new member of the Lords told peers businesses must act fast so they do not become victims of worldwide competition.

    He also called on ministers to promote "more rapid take-up of new technology, by dealing with individual citizens on line, by providing all public sector services on line and by insisting on dealing with all government suppliers on line."

    He added that it was essential for the government to ensure "no child leaves school in the UK without advanced computer skills".

    "We cannot, Canute-like, seek to hold back the digital tide," he warned.

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