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As schools issued with mobile phone guidance – many worry the law is not keeping up with modern life | Politics News

A statistic that may bewilder anyone older than around 35 – by age 12, 97% of pupils have a mobile phone.

Here’s another alarming figure.

At one secondary school, the head said he’d spoken to a pupil who had spent 18 hours on their phone in a single Sunday.

Given all that, it’s no surprise that formal guidance on using mobile phones within schools in England has been talked about by the government for years.

It’s now materialised and, in general, has been welcomed by headteachers as providing clarity and consistency – as well as an empowering effect to crack down on phone use.

But will the new document have much tangible impact?

Politics live: Army applications soar after warnings of possible transcription

Many schools already have rules around phone use – ranging from blanket bans to confiscation policies.

While the government has said half of schools currently do not restrict use, a survey by Teacher Tapp last month suggested 62% of secondaries had blanket bans during the day and fewer than 1% allowed phone use at any time.

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Rishi Sunak has been asked if it’s time to ban smartphones for under-16s.

The City of London Academy in Southwark allows pupils to keep their phones on them but enforces a ‘see it, hear it, lose it’ rule where handsets are taken away if they are spotted or go off in lessons.

A phone is confined to the confiscation locker until the end of the following day for a first offence or the end of the next week if it happens a second time.

The head here says the stringency of the rules does have a deterrent affect as many pupils would often rather be suspended than separated from their phone for an extend period.

The year nine pupils we spoke to at the school agreed with the rules, saying it helped with their learning – although one did admit that certain teachers were more lenient than others.

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The new guidance has been hailed by ministers as ‘changing the norms’ in schools, but it comes amid an increased focus on the broader impact of the use of social media and mobile phones by young people.

The two teenagers convicted of murdering Brianna Ghey in Warrington last year were found to have accessed violent material online before the killing.

Brianna’s mother, Esther Ghey, has since called for more drastic rules including for phones to be made for under 16s that do not allow access to social media apps.

That idea has been backed by the Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza.

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Esther Ghey is calling for a change in legislation

The secondary school pupils we spoke to were not convinced though, questioning whether a broader ban would work and pointing out that some use smartphones for learning and homework if they don’t have a computer at home.

The government doesn’t seem to be onboard either, with ministers maintaining that the new online safety act will go some way to protecting children and young people.

From social media to artificial intelligence, it’s quite often the pace of change in the world of tech that presents acute challenges for legislators.

Many now are worried that the law simply isn’t keeping up with modern life.

Forget The Terminator – when it comes to Arnie’s hit films, Johnson should worry about Total Recall | Politics News

Boris Johnson quoted Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day in his final address to the Commons as prime minister. 

“‘Hasta la vista, Baby’ – thank you”, he signed off to MPs last July.

The quotation, literally “until the view” in Spanish, is usually taken to mean “until we meet again” – a hope which Johnson wholeheartedly embraces. He makes no secret that he would like, and feels he deserves, another go in Number 10 Downing Street. Citing Schwarzenegger conjured up his other catchphrase: “I’ll be back.”

At the moment though, Mr Johnson should be more pre-occupied with another of Arnie’s greatest hits: Total Recall. Recall, in the sense that parliament meant it in the Recall of MPs Act 2015, may well be about to cut short his time as a member of parliament. For now, at least.

The Act was passed in the wake of the expenses scandal, when it proved impossible to remove members from parliament, even after they were sent to prison. The recall process has proved a quietly efficient way of dealing with wrongdoers, although not all of them have paid the ultimate price of losing their seats.

Under the Act recalling, i.e. unseating, an MP can be triggered for three reasons only:

1. If an MP is sent to prison for any length of time, once the appeals process is exhausted. (A sentence of over 12 months automatically kicks an MP out)
2. When the House votes to suspend an MP for 10 sitting days or more on the recommendation of the Standards Committee
3. If an MP is convicted of fiddling expenses and allowances under the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 – even with a non-custodial sentence

When one of these conditions is met, the speaker informs the “petition officer” in the relevant constituency. In practice the “petition officer” is the council official who acts as returning officer at election times. They must then set up polling stations, open for six weeks, where the petition can be signed (in person or by post). If 10% or more of the local electorate sign it, the MP is recalled and a by-election takes place. The deposed individual is not barred from running for re-election.

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‘Could you lose your seat over this?’

So far, half a dozen MPs have been caught up with or faced the threat of a recall petition. Of these one is still serving and has been re-elected at a general election. Two are out of parliament and three are still uncertain what their fate will be.

In 2018, Ian Paisley Jnr, the DUP MP for North Antrim, was suspended for 30 days for failing to declare hospitality from the Sri Lankan government. But the recall petition in his constituency fell 444 votes short of 10%. No by-election was triggered and he kept his seat.

In early 2019 Fiona Onasanya, Labour MP for Peterborough, was sentenced to three months for perverting the court of justice over speeding offences. Labour removed the whip from her. 28% backed the recall petition. She did not contest the by-election.

The same year the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, Christopher Davies, was found guilty of false expense claims. 19% voted for recall. Davies was allowed to stand again as the Conservative candidate in the subsequent by-election, but he lost to the Lib Dems. The Tory Fay Jones won it back in the 2019 general election.

Claudia Webbe, the MP for Leicester East, was convicted of harassment of her partner’s female friend. Labour removed the whip and say she should resign. Her conviction was upheld on appeal but the sentence was reduced, avoiding prison. So a recall petition was not triggered and Webbe continues to sit as an independent MP.

Margaret Ferrier, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, is currently going through the process following a breach of COVID travel restrictions. She was convicted and given 270 hours of community service at Glasgow Sherriff Court. In the next week or so, the Leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt, will call a debate, when the Commons is expected to uphold the 30-day suspension recommended by the Standards Committee. That would trigger a by-election for the SNP at a difficult time. The party has already said it will campaign against Ferrier if she stands again as an independent.

The Standards Committee membership overlaps with the Privileges Committee which is now investigating Boris Johnson for contempt of parliament through lying. Four Conservative MPs and the SNP member argued for a lighter, nine-day suspension for Ferrier which would not have meant a by-election. But in the end the whole committee backed the tougher measures.

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Highlights of Boris Johnson’s evidence

Senior Conservatives still predict that the Privileges Committee will duck a furore if they find against Johnson by recommending a suspension of less than 10 days. But Ferrier’s punishment augurs badly for him if he is to avoid a challenge in his Uxbridge constituency. Their two offences are separate matters, of course, though both relate to breaking the pandemic rules which the prime minister introduced. Committee members are said to be less sympathetic to Mr Johnson than to Ferrier, who is a single parent with a home far from Westminster.

It is possible that Mr Johnson may prefer to face recall rather than stay on as MP for Uxbridge. He has already agreed to fight the next election there as their candidate. Based on current polls, Electoral Calculus predicts that he would lose. They give Labour an 83% chance of taking the seat.

Some MPs caught in controversy choose to fall on their swords and resign rather than go through the recall process – the Conservative MPs Neil Parish and, eventually, Owen Paterson are recent examples. If sanctioned Johnson might prefer to stand down immediately, citing the “good chap” principle. This would give him several personal advantages. Donald Trump style, he could claim political victimisation to stir up his supporters. He would have until the next election to earn as much as possible without having to declare his earnings to parliament.

He could also find another winnable seat. This week John Howell, who has served as MP for Henley since he took over from Boris Johnson, announced that he will not run in the new version of the constituency following boundary changes. Oxfordshire (South East) remains a safe seat with a 65% chance of being held by the Conservatives. Boris and Carrie Johnson own property in the area. It had been thought that Nadine Dorries’ Bedfordshire constituency might make a comfortable berth for him if, as expected, Johnson promotes her to the House of Lords. On current predictions though, Labour are favourites to capture this seat.

Some politicians from the radical right would like to use the recall process as a regular feature of political combat – as impeachment seems to be in danger of becoming in the United States. Zac Goldsmith proposed that just 5% of local voters should be able to trigger a recall for any reason. But the act passed by parliament deliberately reserves it for specific wrongdoing. It gives MPs teeth with which to police their own standards, at a time when public trust in them is low.

There are already more cases pending. Following a media sting, Scott Benton, Conservative MP for the marginal seat of Blackpool has referred himself to the standards commissioner for alleged misuse of his parliamentary email address.

Until now, media coverage of recall petitions has been quiet. This is largely because it is an offence to report on people signing the petition or to speculate on its outcome while it is taking place. The Electoral Commission has suggested some changes but neither the government nor MPs have taken them up. Those constraints on reporting are likely to be tested to the limit should Boris Johnson end up starring in his own Total Recall.

‘It’s going to be terrible for me’: Two-thirds of adults worry they cannot afford Christmas dinner | UK News

Two-thirds of adults are worried that they will not be able to afford Christmas dinner, according to a survey.

The survey, commissioned by the Salvation Army, calculated the cost of Christmas dinner at £7.50 per head but – as the price of food is continuing to rise – the cost has increased since the survey was carried out on 22 October.

The concern is greater among those aged 65 and over – 81% – and those in the east of England – 80%.

Some 16% are planning to use a food bank to get items for their meal, while 38% are likely to skip meals if they have an unexpected expense such as a broken boiler.

The Salvation Army’s Lieutenant Colonel Dean Pallant said: “Christmas should be the season of joy, not sorrow.

“If so many people are worried they can’t even afford one of the most important meals of the year, it’s a red flag that poverty is creeping further into our communities.”

The poll also found that 14% of people cannot afford to buy their children a present this Christmas, and 18% expect to spend time in a building that is free to visit – just so they can keep warm.

Lt Col Pallant said measures announced in the autumn statement show the government is trying to help, but “its ability to stop the creep of poverty has been dangerously reduced due to rising inflation and the overall bleak economic outlook”.

He continued: “We expect this Christmas to be one of our busiest ever and are providing as many emergency food parcels as possible for those in urgent need and Christmas dinner for isolated older people.

Read more:
Rising energy and food bills tip inflation to highest level since 1981
UK economy to be worst hit of all G7 nations, OECD report says

“And our Present Appeal is giving gifts to children who would otherwise have nothing to open on Christmas Day.

“We also offer a warm space in many of our buildings to people who can’t afford to heat their homes and will support rough sleepers so they aren’t forced to spend a cold Christmas on the streets.”

In October, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that almost half of UK adults were finding it difficult to afford energy bills, rent, or mortgage payments.

This comes against a background of tax hikes and inflation that is rapidly outpacing wages.

John, a 64-year-old grandfather and volunteer worker from Middlesbrough, told the Salvation Army survey: “I usually go to relatives for Christmas dinner, but they can’t afford to have me this year so I will stay at home.

“I am going to treat it like a normal day and have sandwiches for lunch as I’m worried it will cost too much to buy the food and cook it.

“It is going to be a terrible Christmas for me.”

A government spokeswoman said: “We recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we’re protecting millions of the most vulnerable households through our £37bn package of support, including at least £1,200 of direct payments and saving households an average of £900 on their energy bills this winter, in addition to £150 of extra support for disabled people and £300 per household for pensioners.

“Vulnerable families in England are being supported by the government’s Household Support Fund – which was boosted by £500m – to help pay for essentials.”