Keith Vaz has widened his blame game in Swedish territory. He has posted the following Early Day Motion before the British parliament
VIDEO GAMES AND SHOOTING 27.10.2010
That this House notes with concern that the recent race shootings in Malmo, Sweden have been associated with the violent video game Counter-Strike; further notes that the internet-based, first-person shooting game that pits
a counter-terrorist team against terrorists was previously banned in Brazil and in 2007 was associated with US College Campus massacres; recognises the potential impact of violent video games on those under 18 years; and calls on the Government
to ensure the purchase of video games by those under 18 years is controlled and that parents are provided with clear information on the violent content of certain games.
The background is that police in the Swedish city of Malmo have confirmed that an as yet unnamed 38 year old man has been arrested in connection with a series of gun attacks on people with ethnic minority backgrounds.
Prior to the arrest, local police had suspected that more than a dozen unsolved shootings over the last year, in which one person died and eight more were wounded, may have been the work of lone gunman. The man arrested at the weekend has now
been charged with one count of murder and seven attempted murders.
So how do we get from racist nutjob shooting at the local migrant population to a three-year old video game?
It appears to have been The Times that decided to have a bit of dabble in stirring up a faux moral panic by quoting the opinions of a Mr Ahmad al-Mughrabi in its coverage of the story…
I am sure that this is down to some crazy kid who plays that sniping game Counterstrike all day. I don't believe in the lone Nazi theory
So who is our mysterious Mr al-Mughrabi? Is he a police officer? A city official? A representative of the Swedish Justice Ministry?
No, as far as anyone has managed to ascertain, to date, he's just some bloke that The Times picked off the street at random and that's all the evidence that Keith Vaz needs to put down an EDM and start banging on about violent video games, yet
Keith Vaz surprised a few parliamentarians when he turned up an event in support of gaming.
Parliament Games Day was organised by pressure group Gamers' Voice to bring together politicians and the industry to promote the cultural and economic strengths of British software.
Vaz told Eurogamer: I've never been against games. I've been against violent games that are able to fall into the hands of young people who are perhaps not able to understand the implications of what they're doing.
I don't oppose games, he inisted. I just think it's very important that people respect and acknowledge the age limits. And the campaign has always been about ensuring there is proper labelling so that people know exactly what kind of
games they should have.
Asked if he was happy with the new games classification system – still waiting to be passed into law – Vaz said he felt it was moving in the right direction . When we started this campaign the age limit was the size of half
a, I think, a 5p coin, which was very small, he explained. Obviously we want to see what PEGI does, but the more that they can draw to the attention of young people the need to respect the age limit better – and if you're over 18 you
can do what you want. No-one wants to stop you playing your games.
The rollout of the new PEGI video games classification system will miss its current April 2010 deadline and will not be introduced until July of this year at the earliest.
The Video Standards Council (VSC) will then take over administration of producer assigned games ratings using PEGI symbols and classifications.
The Conservative culture minister Ed Vaizey has admitted that: There's been some technical delays to iron out a few kinks – nothing fundamental, nothing serious. And we'll crack on with it as fast as we can.
mcvuk.com believes that the delay is due to the time it will take to obtain European parliamentary approval.
Indecision over whether games featuring video content still need a BBFC certificate has temporarily derailed the implementation of PEGI ratings.
The handover from the BBFC to the VSC will not now occur until September at the very earliest.
A new government proposal states that interactive entertainment which features linear content (such as trailers) would require a BBFC rating. That means a game that features a video in it will need to have both a PEGI and BBFC label on the box.
UKIE representing UK games producers condemned the proposal, saying in a statement:
Any dual labelling is contrary to the principles that were established in having PEGI introduced into the Digital Economy Act and if this proposal were implemented we believe it would only cause unnecessary and potentially
harmful consumer confusion.
Tom Watson gamely proposes to amend the Vaz EDM by replacing it entirely.
EDM Amendment 2427A1 - CALL OF DUTY 3
Primary sponsor: Tom Watson
Sponsors: Julian Huppert, Kerry McCarthy
That this House notes:
that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) gave the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 an 18 classification, noting that 'the game neither draws upon nor resembles real terrorist attacks on the underground;
further believes that the game has an excellent user interface and challenges the gamers' dexterity as well as collaborative skills in an outline setting; and
encourages the BBFC to uphold the opinion of the public that whilst the content of video games may be unsettling or upsetting to some, adults should be free to choose their own entertainment in the absence of legal issues or material which
raises a risk or harm.
Business of the House
House of Commons
1st December 2011
Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour)
Could we have a debate next week about the harmful effects of violent video games? Last week, the university of Indiana published research that showed that regularly playing those games resulted in physical changes in the brain. At a time when
parents are thinking of purchasing video games for Christmas, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it is important to hold a debate on this matter? This is not about censorship---it is about protecting our children.
George Young (Leader of the House of Commons, House of Commons; North West Hampshire, Conservative)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, and I know that this is an issue that he has pursued with vigour for some time. I cannot promise a debate next week. Home Office questions, I think, will be held on 12 December, but in the meantime I
will draw his concern to the attention of the Home Secretary.
Last week Game Politics pointed out that the research cited was in fact supported by the Center for Successful Parenting, Indiana. This is in fact a nutter group with a website that is designed for parents to learn about the negative side
effects of violent video. See
article about the cited research from
That this House is deeply concerned by recent research which suggests that frequently using the internet or videogames can have a physical effect on the brain, similar to that of drugs or alcohol; notes that both neuronal connections between
brain areas and brain functions including emotions, decision-making and self-control are affected; calls for further research to be conducted into these serious findings; and further calls for the NHS to provide effective support to those who
suffer from internet or gaming addictions.
Keith Vaz has had another knock at the Top Gear Christmas Special that featured a few jokey comments about India.
Vaz has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament saying:
That this House is deeply concerned by recent events which have served to undermine the excellent relationship between India and the UK;
notes that the Top Gear India Christmas Special, featuring the unhelpful comments of Jeremy Clarkson and Dow Chemicals' sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics in particular have had a very negative reaction in India;
is concerned that Indian student applications to UK universities are falling;
is disappointed by Britain's failure to secure the fighter jet contract from India despite the efforts of successive defence ministers;
and calls on the Government to re-energise this vital, special and enduring relationship which ought to be one of the closest and most beneficial in the world.
Keith Vaz has been casting doubt on PEGI ratings suggesting that these require further government scrutiny
As usual Vaz has voiced his concerns via an Early Day Motion 2761 in Parliament saying:
That this House notes that:
Tiga, the trade body representing independent UK video games developers, has come out in support of targeted tax relief for the games industry;
encourages tax relief for small and medium-sized enterprises for its role in generating and safeguarding jobs, especially in these current difficult times;
remains concerned that regulation of the video games industry is lacking in comparison to other industries; is anxious that the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) classification of video games is taken as seriously as the British Board of
Film Classification by both retailers and shoppers;
wishes the public was more aware of the risks to children and young adults;
and calls on the Government to place more scrutiny on the PEGI classification system.
The only signature supporting the motion so far is sponsor Mike Hancock.
Early day motion 3014: VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES (No. 2)
Primary sponsor: Keith Vaz
That this House is reminded of the consequences of the ineffectual Pan European Game Information (PEGI) classification system for video games following the testimony of Anders Breivik about the tragic events in Norway in July 2011;
notes that in his submission of evidence to the court Breivik describes how he trained for the attacks using the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ;
is disturbed that Breivik used the game to help hone his target acquisition and the suggestion that the simulation prepared him for the attacks;
is concerned that PEGI as a classification system can only provide an age-rating and not restrict ultra-violent content; recognises that in an era of ever-more sophisticated and realistic game-play more robust precautions must be taken before
video games are published; and
calls on the Government to provide for closer scrutiny of aggressive first-person shooter video games.
House of Commons, Questions re Culture, Media and Sport, 16th May 2012.
Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport whether his Department has any plans to place further restrictions on the content of video games following the testimony of Anders Breivik.
Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative)
The Government is currently moving towards strengthening the laws in respect of video game regulation. We have recently announced our intention to designate officers of the Video Standards Council as the authorities responsible for the
classification of video games. When that process is complete, it will for the first time be a legal requirement for all video games suitable for those aged 12 or over to be classified. It will be an offence to supply a video game in breach of its
classification. In addition, there is one extra safeguard in the UK that is not part of the general Pan European Games Information scheme that we will be using: in the UK, there will be the option of refusing classification where a video game
cannot fit within the published PEGI criteria. If a game that |s not exempt has no classification, it will be an offence to supply it to anyone.
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport how many representations his Department has received from the Pan European Game Information Service in relation to newly-published video games.
The Pan European Games Information system is the mechanism by which video games are rated. The bodies that implement the scheme are independent of Government and have not made any representations about newly-published video games
Keith Vaz use to feature frequently on Melon Farmers due a series of ludicrous whinges blaming video games for all Britain's ills. He has wisely kept quiet on the topic for the last few years though.
Now he has rather rudely been by outed as a gay customer of sex workers by the Sunday Mirror. This rather conflicts with his chairmanship of the influential Commons Home Affairs parliamentary select committee which is looking into Britain's laws
governing sex work.
He conceded on Sunday that he would have to relinquish his post as chair committee, at least temporarily. Although he said he would not be making a formal announcement until he meets the committee on Tuesday, he effectively confirmed that he
would have to stand aside when he issued a statement saying he did not want to be a distraction .
The Labour MP also condemned the conduct of the Sunday Mirror, saying it was deeply troubling that a national newspaper should have paid individuals who have acted in this way .
Vaz has not been overly hypocritical about sex work law, it is not as if he has been pushing for the criminalisation of people who buy sex. In its interim report on prostitution in July, the home affairs committee said:
We are not yet convinced that the sex buyer law would be effective in reducing demand or in improving the lives of sex workers, either in terms of the living conditions for those who continue to work in prostitution or the effectiveness of
services to help them find new ways to earn a living.
Evaluations of the impact of sex buyer laws are largely based on data about street prostitution, and therefore offer little insight into the large parts of the sex industry which take place in various indoor environments, and there are
indications that the law can be misused to harass and victimise sex workers, who are the very people whom the law is seeking to protect.
Vaz also argued in parliament that poppers should not be included in a list of substances banned by the Psychoactive Substances Act and in the paper he is quoted as telling the escorts that he did not use them himself.
Chris Ashford in his
lawandsexuality blog points out that the Vaz evening of fun was not particularly unusual amongst the gay community:
It actually doesn't sound like that unusual night for many gay men who might engage in group sex bareback encounters, with some guys using class A drugs, many using poppers and perhaps some guys there who are sex workers (who may or may not be
performing that identity). The problem here is that Vaz is married to a woman and has as Pink News noted , apparently been outed by this story. Vaz has generally taken liberal positions on sex work and so there's arguably no hypocrisy there.
However Journalist and equality campaigner Paris Lees
commented to thesun.co.uk that Vaz was not totally above a bit of hypocrisy when he grilled her as chainman of the Home Affairs committee. She said:
This is same Keith Vaz who told me, last May, that he 'couldn't believe' I'd never met a prostitute that hadn't been forced into it.
I told him that during my time on the game, I never met a prostitute who HAD been forced into it.
Why is he paying prostitutes for sex if he thinks they are forced into it?
Offsite Comment: The outrage against Keith Vaz is nothing but Victorian puritanism
He has a range of views on a range of topics. Some of them, like his obsession with violent games, are very silly. Some are downright morally reprehensible, such as his help in whipping up outrage against Salman Rushdie over the Satanic Verses.
Some are perfectly commendable, such as his continued commitment to people lost and betrayed by the asylum and immigration system.
Regardless of their relative validity, they earned him enemies, who will now get involved in picking away at the remnants of his career. Not the least of these will be anti-prostitution groups, who were dismayed by a recent home affairs committee
report which recommended decriminalising sex work completely. They are likely to use the story to discredit that report.
In the wake of the news there are a lot of people saying uninformed shit. People who weren't there trying to rewrite Home Affairs Select Committee's hearings on prostitution. I was called to give evidence. Maybe you remember; it was in a lot of
papers. Here is what really happened back in May.
All media coverage from May noted how me and @ParisLees had to stomp hard on bullshit lines of questioning from hostile MPs to get any of our points across. We went there fully expecting, and pretty much got, a beasting. Compare to the easy
questions lobbed at Kat Banyard at the first hearing, who was never a sex worker and has never worked with a prostitution charity or outreach...as far as anyone can tell, her only firsthand experience with sex workers is having met me in a BBC
green room once.
When I called out the committee for visiting Sweden and Denmark without meeting local sex worker-led orgs, Keith Vaz had the audacity to claim that they had. I know he was wrong; sex work organisations were shut out of the consultation visits.
Why? Because Vaz had been a vocal supporter of the Swedish model. Now people are trying to imply Vaz gave us a helping hand in the results? As if.