Julian Knight's Westminster Diary, 20/02/20

Solihull Mail

I was recently elected as Chair of Parliament’s cross-party Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee. This means I have a duty to hold the Government to account on a broad range of subjects, including keeping people safe online.

So last week I made sure to question Matt Warman, a junior minister at the DCMS department, on what the Government is doing to bring forward the online harms situation we need.

It was interesting to hear his update on the progress of these proposals, and a bit about how ministers intend to strike the right balance between ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place for vulnerable individuals on the one hand and protecting free speech and avoiding excessive burdens on business on the other.

But I made sure to press him on the details. In my view we must ensure that the regulator responsible for enforcing these new rules has proper powers and is properly funded, ideally by a levy on the turnover of digital giants operating in the UK. I also want my committee to be given a formal role in appointing the regulator, to ensure that such a sensitive system remains under proper democratic control.

This week is recess, meaning more time to spend up here in Solihull. One local issue which many of you have been raising with me are proposals to close our local branch of Marks & Spencer in Mell Square next summer.

Many Silhillians are loyal M&S shoppers, and I know that whilst the chain’s decision to expand onto a new site at the Sears retail park has been welcomed by some it does have several disadvantages. The current town centre location is easily accessible for many local residents, and lies on various bus routes, cycle paths as well as having a variety of options for parking.

As a result, the store, and in particular the in-store café, has become a valuable community space in a way that an out-of-town location never can. That’s why I have written to Marks & Spencer to communicate our concerns directly to senior management.