Bob Russell MP

Bob Russell MP (Liberal Democrat) MP for Colchester. Liberal Democrat Shadow Defence spokesperson. Bob is a journalist by profession having worked for a number of local papers, he spent 13 years as a Press Officer for Post Office Telecommunications/British Telecom. He can also type at 75 words per minute.

Digital Economy Bill

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Identity cards

The Financial Times reports that Bob Russel asked the home secretary Jacqui Smith, as she gave evidence to a select committee 20 February 2008

"Why don't you take this opportunity to make yourself really popular and abandon the project?"

As a member of the Home Affairs Committee he voted to voted to reject ID cards.

"there is no evidence that ID cards stop terrorist attacks"

Said the unknown cost of the scheme, which could be "several billions", would be better spent on police recruitment and surveillance.

Joined Labour's David Winnick in issuing a minority report rejecting ID cards altogether, when the home affairs select committee reported on the ID Cards Bill.

During a trial of ID card equipment just trying to use the eye scanner brought tears to the eyes of Bob Russell MP, making it impossible for the equipment to take a reading.

DNA database

Uncorrected oral evidence from the Home Affairs Committee session on young Black people in the criminal justice system 13 March 2007

Bob Russell MP: Lady Scotland, it has been reported in Parliament that 32% of all black males are on the DNA database in comparison with 8% of white males, and it has been reported more recently that perhaps as many as 77% of young black males will soon be on the DNA database. Are those figures correct?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The figures in relation to 77% I think are correct, and we have to look at why that is. The database, of course, simply collates information properly retained from the criminal justice process. We changed the rules, as you remember, to enable us to retain DNA data on a greater number of occasions than we have had hitherto. At one stage we could only retain data if someone was convicted; then we could retain data if someone was charged, tried and convicted or acquitted. Then we have moved it back to be able to retain data on arrest, and as we have done that we have been able to collate more and more data to the successful extent that we are able to better identify those who have committed crime, but also better identify those who have not committed crime. So it is a sword and a shield.

Bob Russell MP: It is not the same for the white population though, is it?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No, and that I can say to you is a matter of concern to us because the disproportionality that may be reflected in the criminal justice process is being reflected in the DNA database. Overall, of course, from the statistics available the difference is not so great, so, for instance, we have 84% arrests are white, 9% are black, 5% are Asian, 1% are classified as other and 1% are unknown, and the figures in relation to arrest are reflected in the data sets that were kept.

Bob Russell MP: I want to keep to the DNA database because that is where I am putting the questioning. So if three out of every four young black men are on the DNA database.

Bob Russell MP: 77%, three out of four. Trevor Phillips made the observation - and I am quoting him - "This is tantamount to criminalizing a generation of young black men." Do you agree with him?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I do not think that it is tantamount to criminalizing a generation of black men, but I think the way in which the criminal justice system is operating is something that this Committee is looking at because of the level of disproportionality. The disproportionality in the criminal justice system is being reflected in the figures that we are collecting on the database. So the data that we have affects the arrest rate, more or less. So it is whether someone is arrested, because at the point of arrest if your DNA is taken and put on the database it does not mean that you are subsequently charged, it does not mean that you are subsequently convicted; but it does mean that your data will be retained.

Bob Russell MP: I think those percentages in that last comment speaks volumes.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As I have said, if you look at the arrest rates of 84% white, 9% black, 5% Asian and 2% either other/unknown, the database reflects that arrest proportionally.

As uncorrected oral evidence neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings

Early Day Motions

Signed Early Day Motion 263 Identity Cards 06 June 2005

That this House believes that a convincing case for the introduction of compulsory biometric identity cards and a national database has not been made, that the risks involved far outweigh any discernible benefit, that the introduction of identity cards will fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state, diminish personal privacy and threaten civil liberties, that the present proposals do not provide properly costed, proportionate or effective solutions to the problems they are claimed to solve; and calls upon the Government to shelve plans for their introduction.

Signed an Early Day Motion Freedom of Expression and the UN Internet Governance Forum 30 October 2006

That this House notes with concern that internet repression is hampering freedom of expression across the world especially in Iran, Vietnam, the Maldives and China; urges companies in China, including Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, to reveal which words they have banned from blogs or have filtered out of web searches; requests that they make public all their agreements with the Chinese authorities and publicly call for the release of cyber-dissidents jailed for expressing peaceful opinions online; welcomes Amnesty International's campaign to ensure that the internet remains a tool for political freedom, not repression; and urges the UK Government to make strong representations at the UN Internet Governance Forum in Athens in November to ensure that the internet remains a tool for the free flow of information and respect for human rights and that freedom of expression is a key component to any future agreement on internet governance.

Signed Early Day Motion 845 Freedom of Information 06 Febuary 2007

That this House expresses concern that the proposed new fees regulations under the Freedom of Information Act would allow authorities to refuse on cost grounds a high proportion of requests which they are currently required to answer; notes that the Government's consultation document recognises that this will have a greater impact on journalists, hon. Members, campaign groups and researchers than on private individuals; considers that such changes would undermine the Act's contribution to increased discussion of public affairs, accountability and trust in the work of public authorities; and calls on the Government not to proceed with the proposals.

Signed Early Day Motion 179 Software in Schools 21 November 2006

That this House congratulates the Open University and other schools, colleges and universities for utilising free and open source software to deliver cost-effective educational benefit not just for their own institutions but also the wider community; and expresses concern that Becta and the Department for Education and Skills, through the use of outdated purchasing frameworks, are effectively denying schools the option of benefiting from both free and open source software and the value and experience small and medium ICT companies could bring to the schools market.

Signed the Early Day Motion Spam E-Mails 16 November 2003

That this House commends the House of Commons Library Standard note on Unsolicited Electronic Mail (SN/SC/1280); notes that according to computer experts the amount of spam increased from 3.2 per cent. of total communication in 2002 to an astonishing 55 per cent. in March 2003 and that 90 per cent. of spam, most of which is pornographic in content, can be identified as emanating from 150 sources, 40 of which are located in Florida; believes that the electronic mail system is likely to collapse if the volume of spam is not reduced; commends the EU for introducing legislative measures that should stifle the operations of bulk commercial e-mailers by the end of this year by ensuring that only those opting in would receive spam messages; regrets that this legislation will not cover spam originating from the US and other off shore distribution points; expresses its concern at the Bush Administration's plans to offer only an opt out option for those wishing to block unsolicited mail; calls on the US Administration to adopt legislation based on the EU model; and calls on the Government to make urgent representations on behalf of its 20 million citizens now on-line.


2004-11-24 - The Guardian - Just say no
Author: Tom Happold
Summary: Despite being one of the most controversial measures in the Queen's speech, ID cards look like getting an easy passage through the House of Commons. David Blunkett's plans have already got the blessing of the Common's home affairs select committee, which concluded that they would make a "significant contribution" to the fight against crime and terrorism. David Winnick and Bob Russell's vain bid to amend this conclusion "pointing out that there is no evidence that ID cards stop terrorist attacks" was overruled by the committee's nine other members.
2004-07-30 - BBC - ID card plans 'badly thought out'
Summary: Two MPs on the Commons home affairs committee , Labour's David Winnick and Liberal Democrat Bob Russell, voted to reject ID cards on principle. Mr Russell said the unknown cost of the scheme, which could be "several billions", would be better spent on police recruitment and surveillance.
2004-07-29 - The Guardian - MPs attack Blunkett ID card plan
Author: Patrick Wintour
Summary: The home affairs select committee will criticise secrecy, costings and voice fears over intelligence services. Two MPs, Labour's David Winnick and Bob Russell of the Liberal Democrats, will issue a minority report rejecting ID cards altogether.
2004-06-24 - Computing - A closer look at biometrics
Author: Robert Venes
Summary: However, an MP who volunteered to take part in the trial of ID card iris-scanning technology wasn't quite as impressed. Just trying to use the eye scanner brought tears to the eyes of Bob Russell, MP, making it impossible for the equipment to take a reading. The people in charge of the trial admitted that watery eyes and even long eyelashes could cause problems. The failure rate was seven per cent of those tested.
2004-05-07 - BBC - Long lashes thwart ID scan trial
Summary: An MP who volunteered to take part in the trial at the UK Passport Service headquarters in London complained the scanning was uncomfortable. Home Affairs Select Committee member Bob Russell, who suffers from an eye complaint, said his eyes watered and staff were unable to scan his iris.
2004-05-07 - The Register - Cry to beat iris scanners
Author: Lucy Sherriff
Summary: An MP who volunteered to take part in the UK ID card trials says the iris scanner used is uncomfortable and made his eyes water. Bob Russell, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, and the man with the rheumy eyes, speculated that the iris scanner could also cause problems for people who were particularly photo sensitive, or suffered from epilepsy.
2001-01-23 - BBC - Spinning in cyberspace
Summary: Only 16% of MPs have their own websites, and a recent survey described most of those as comically inept. Half do not even give out an e-mail address."I'm not a fan," says Liberal Democrat Bob Russell. "If MPs start getting hundreds of junk e-mails, they may miss a genuine message from a concerned constituent."
2000-12-21 - The Guardian - Stop internet dirty tricks, says Speaker
Summary: Bob Russell, the Lib Dem MP for Colchester, told colleagues that a website had been set up in the name of Bob Russell MP "but I can assure you that is not I who has done so. Inquiries reveal the web page has been set up by a leading member of a political party - of which I am not a member - in my constituency".
2000-12-21 - The Register - MPs discover the fun of cyberpranks
Author: Lucy Sherriff
Summary: Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, claimed he was a victim of cyber impersonation. Russell had heard from colleagues that someone had set up a web site in his name at - which no longer goes anywhere. He alleged that the URL redirected surfers to the Conservative Party's home page. He said that investigation of the site "reveal that the site was set up by a leading member of a political party of which I am not a member."