Would you like to visit Parliament? | Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column

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Parliament has been lively as ever this week with the news that an amended Online Safety Bill is to return to the Commons.

This important Bill will update our legal system to take account of the changing way in which communication takes place and will make a big difference in keeping our children safe online.

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The last piece of legislation on communications was back in 2003, almost 20 years ago, when smartphones and social media hadn’t even been invented. Since then, the internet has become such an integral part of people’s lives, not just as a social tool, but providing essential services too.

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Burnley MP Antony HigginbothamBurnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

But as the online world has become ever more important, so the risks from it have increased too. Whether that is the advent of scams targeting people through email, or the dangers posed to children through harmful content. That’s why it’s important that strong protections are put in place.

I’ve heard first-hand accounts of the some of the issues faced online and this new legislation will go some way to address them. It will tighten up age restricted content, make it illegal to promote self-harm, and give parents more control over the content their children see. However, none of this will come at the expense of free speech which is a central pillar of our democracy.

This week has also seen my very first coach trip to Parliament, where on Thursday I welcomed 40 residents from across Burnley and Padiham to the Palace of Westminster.

Visiting Parliament is a unique experience and I believe it’s important that everybody has a chance to see the centre of our democracy. Even now, although I travel down each week, I’m still struck by its magnificence and history.

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That’s what’s led me to arrange the first of what I hope will be many coach trips for residents to visit. The visit included a tour of Parliament, a Q&A with me in one of the famous committee rooms, and a couple of hours to explore London too.

As I’ve said many times speaking with residents in Burnley and Padiham is one of the best parts of the job, and to have so many visit Parliament was great. Given the success of this trip I will be organising another in the new year. If you, your family, or friends are interested in visiting then please keep let me know and I’d be delighted to add you to the future list.