Nuisance Calls

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 15 January 2015.

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Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East 9:30, 15 January 2015

What recent steps he has taken to tackle nuisance calls.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

In spring last year we published the first ever nuisance calls action plan, which includes both legislative and other proposals to tackle the problem, so we are taking measures. We have, for example, recently consulted on lowering—or, indeed, removing—the legal threshold for the Information Commissioner’s Office, and we will be publishing our response to that consultation very soon.

Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East

I thank the Minister for that reply, but there is an insufficient sense of urgency on this. To some people these calls are not merely a nuisance; particularly for older people, they are a source of great distress, worry and anxiety, to the extent that some people will not answer their landlines at all, which is a safety issue in some cases. What are we doing to address the fact that existing regulations are not strong enough, which results in our getting all these robot calls and calls from people supposedly doing surveys? What are the Government going to do about that?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

I regularly meet a range of stakeholders involved in this matter. We have allowed the ICO and Ofcom to share information, and we are going to lower or remove the threshold for taking action. We have also massively increased the level of fines that can be levied. We work with telecoms companies on technology solutions and we have worked with the consumer group Which? on a range of reforms. Only yesterday, I met Mike Crockart to talk about how we can help vulnerable people with call-blocking technology, so we are engaged with this issue.

Photo of David Nuttall David Nuttall Conservative, Bury North

The Minister referred to the nuisance calls taskforce report prepared by Which? on the Government’s behalf, which was published last month. He and I were at the report’s launch. Has he found its 15 recommendations useful, and if so, what plans does he have to implement them?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

We work closely with Which? on this issue, and I was delighted to see my hon. Friend at the launch of the report. It contains a number of recommendations, which we are looking at, and I am particularly taken by the idea of holding members of the board of a company responsible for this issue, so that someone is accountable. We will evaluate the recommendations and implement those that are suitable.