HOUSE OF COMMONS: Universal Credit Bill Debate
“… Mr Speaker, I’d like to thank my honourable friend the Minister and bring to his attention a matter which although not specific to this debate has, I think, a relevance which he will be unable to deny…
Further to what the honourable member had to say regarding the introduction of the Universal Credit perhaps he will indulge me a moment if I remind him of the recommendations from the Demos think tank with reference to providing vouchers for benefit claimants to discourage the purchase of alcohol, cigarettes and lottery scratch cards. I would also remind him of what the Local Government Information Unit and a prominent member of Westminster Council from this very party proposed in regard to the increase in obese claimants – namely that they attend compulsory exercise sessions to qualify for part of their benefit payments.
I would like to register my opinion that these radical proposals be assimilated into any new legislation and to congratulate the far-sighted authors on their labours. This of course goes hand-in-hand with congratulating our Prime Minister on his intention to consider these options at the eleventh hour – indeed right up to the very last reading of the bill; his unstinting efforts to end the curse of indolence is a shining example to us all and I would wish for my feelings of admiration to be a matter of record… (Hear Hear!) I would like to take the opportunity to remind the House that here is a gentleman who seldom if ever closes his curtains… (Laughter)
Encouraging though these considerations are it is my contention that to be successful in achieving the behavioural changes that are a matter of the utmost importance for the health of the nation that this tough love be extended to the television industry as well. We have but one chance to halt the insidious tide of welfare and its pernicious hold on sections of our population. Just one chance in a generation to address and break this damaging cycle of dependency.
There is little doubt that the proliferation of what one may loosely term ‘entertainment’ has contributed to rising obesity levels and the spread of a ‘couch-potato culture’ – if one could edify the practice by linking it to such a lofty term. My honourable friends no doubt share the mystification of many of my constituents in reporting the widespread access to cable and satellite television among the unemployed. It is not my hard-hearted contention that these people are to be deprived of television completely – for we are not an uncaring government despite the picture painted by some vituperative members across the chamber… (Hear Hear!) I put forward to the House that benefit claimants be electronically-tagged with a unit that is pre-programmed with codes that once aligned with television output allow only certain programmes and/or channels to be viewed.
I would suggest that a Parliamentary committee be set up at the behest of the Prime Minister and under the auspices of the Culture Secretary – its function to be the arbiter for the final selection of programmes. In anticipation of such a development – if I may be so bold – I believe that it is time that this country once again recognised the concept of deserving and undeserving poor. The Victorians new a thing or two about human nature and this is a view whose time surely has come again. This is our historical chance to grasp the moment and do something for the spiritual refreshment of these unfortunates who live in a haze of fatty food, flatulent mental activity and televisual dependence. Much as the health service prescribes for lifestyle improvements, so this new committee will be able to see their important work as a crusade for good. And I can assure members that in time the recipients will see that it is for their own good as well. The gentleman of the Opposition may well scoff… but this is not the Blairite Nanny State so beloved of his profligate party! No… it is an act of commonsense – something which he will struggle to find in any abundance upon his own benches! (Hear Hear!)
With what I have stated in mind… these are the preliminary recommendations that I put before the House. That no Game Shows are to be allowed for they entertain the idea of a something for nothing society. Likewise Reality Shows where the reward is a singing contract or any other form of advancement on the whim of the public for, despite the description of the genre, they give our young people a quite unrealistic view of what is needed to get on in the wider world. The tide of Celebrity will in time be staunched for the corrupting flow that it is. But until that day we must be both proactive and vigilant. As a result I also propose that such prohibitive measures be applied to Soap Operas because of their equally unrealistic and addictive nature.
However, if it please you Mr Speaker, rather than bore the Chamber with a long list of what cannot be seen perhaps it is easier and – given the late hour of debate probably more than welcome – if I detail what would be acceptable under the proposed system of screening. I hear you ladies and gentlemen… I am indeed grateful for your continued indulgence… As a result ITV in all its incarnations and its sister in crime – Channel 5 – will be completely out of bounds for their obvious reliance upon the kind of programming already mentioned.
Channel Four is another obvious candidate for a blanket ban – and I don’t think it necessary to dwell on any reasons here as I’m sure good sense will prevail and no-one, at least on this side, will need reminding of the precipitous slope of taste that was initiated by this organisation despite the contemporary attentions of the government of the then Iron Lady and that celebrated moral guardian Mrs Mary Whitehouse.
Of the lesser lights… the Yesterday channel is deemed wholly acceptable for their ongoing mission to relive our country’s finest hour every hour on the hour and its tireless work in reminding the less deserving members of our society of when the poor were perhaps more grateful of their lot and, if not, then certainly more aware of their place in the scheme of things. Indeed my wife has reminded me that sometimes there are cookery programmes which can also be useful at this time of recession by displaying the ingenuity of war time recipes. Perfectly acceptable and nutritious for those on a limited or fixed income. No-one can doubt that the words of our glorious wartime leader Winston Churchill – which have their place in regular broadcasts on this channel – will still resonate and be suitably uplifting at any time of national need. (Hear Hear!)
BBC1 will inevitably be largely prohibited with the exception of Songs of Praise, Antiques Roadshow , The Apprentice, Classic Serials of proven worth and of course any David Attenborough documentaries – as they show the natural scheme of things whereby the weak and lazy go to the wall. Thus backing our innate beliefs that benefit and subsidy are for strivers and – at last resort – emergency support only. Selected sport broadcasts will be available for many of these similarly important lessons in life for the unfortunate mollycoddled in our society. BBC2 is in general okay but particular threads in documentaries – and once again it is no good members shaking heads for we all know what I mean! – that seek to unsettle the status quo and appeal to the passing fad, the lascivious and the trendy will not be allowed though I accept the contention that maybe these would not be on the radar of the people we are seeking to help in any case.
BBC3 and BBC4 will be approached with the same criteria. Social history which seeks to undermine the very best of British is not an acceptable alternative. Retrospectives of so-called youth culture will be examined on a case by case basis as we are not killjoys by any means. Many of the members of this House whom I am privileged to count as firm lifetime friends will remember my devotion to Trad Jazz in my younger days and although we never resorted to ripping up cinema seats we certainly had a damn good time. (Swing Daddio!) I thank the member of the Opposition for his candid comment – for a moment I was transported back to my injudicious heyday. (Laughter)
Finally; if it please the House… Dave and UK Gold… what’s that, sorry? Oh I see; I am told that this is now simply described as G.O.L.D. and has been since 2008; I am indebted sir… whatever it is now called both channels will be deemed as acceptable per se as valuable exemplar; an instructing lesson to those who have hit life’s buffers – that small budget and unlimited recycling is not without virtue and can be instrumental in achieving some measurable success. Business channels of course are to be allowed and one would hope that given the smaller choice of programmes forthwith of these measures that those on benefits – with their ingrained habits of channel-hopping and subsequent limited attention span – would happen across them and choose to be inspired in the ways of entrepreneurship. To these ends… I propose that shopping channels be allowed because of their importance with regard to national prosperity but with certain products outlawed and with regular messages from business leaders seeking to motivate and add to the national wealth in both physical and moral terms.
In summary… Much work remains to be done but I contend that with this system of targeted screening we might see a less obese, less feckless, less contentious cross-section of benefit claimant than is shamefully current across the land. Those individuals who grasp this opportunity for what it is will be subsequently armed with a firmer idea of the elements of history, morality and business acumen that once made this country great in the eyes of the world and that will ultimately contribute to the greater good of our country once again. As such I commend it to the House…” (Hear Hear!)