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Zero tolerance for misguided MPs? Aug 26

I have a lot of time for Steve Webb when it comes to pensions. Watching him in a panel debate on Newsnight a week or so ago, I was impressed with his grasp of ths issues.

Where I have less time for him is on issues of “social liberalism”. He was very much against the policy paper on censorship that was passed at the last party conference, and now he has come out with this nonsense.

He demands that civil servants caught viewing porn websites at work should be sacked without question. This is despite the fact that

“In the majority of cases where monitoring has picked up apparent inappropriate use, further investigation shows that staff innocently followed a link from another site and were unaware of its content.”

Sixteen people were sacked and one was prosecuted. This is the right course of action if they were breaking the law (especially if they were accessing child porn) or causing extreme offence to colleagues.

But it is not sensible for any organisation to dismiss staff for what is, after all, a relatively minor offence. Disciplining staff and making it clear that more serious action will be taken if they are found in breach of the department’s IT access policies again is a more pragmatic and sensible course of action. That sixteen people were sacked shows that the DWP is prepared to deal with the worst offenders and they should be allowed to do so in possession of the full facts rather than relying on an article in The Sun.

According to Steve, viewing any pornographic website is “assisting filth and paedophiles”. And we thought Mary Whitehouse was dead.

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