Stephen Williams MP - working hard for Bristol West

Stephen Williams demands apology from Labour over nuisance phone calls

10.38.23am GMT Tue 15th Mar 2005

Stop Nuisance Calls graphic

Prospective Lib Dem MP for Bristol West, Stephen Williams, has launched a campaign to stop illegal nuisance calls in the run-up to the General Election. He has demanded that the current Labour MP stops her party from making such illegal calls as part of her increasing desperate campaign to hold on to her seat.

Local residents who have said they don't want nuisance calls, and have registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) to stop such calls, are still being telephoned by both Labour and the Conservatives. The Labour party have breached another law by making automated calls. A computerised message asks people to press their telephone key pad to reveal their voting preferences. This is a common campaign practice in the United States where it is known as 'robo-calling', but it is illegal in the UK and other European Union member states. Companies often get around the law by making the calls from off-shore call centres.

"I have received complaints from people who are TPS registered, who are angry at having had these unwanted calls" said Stephen Williams. "Unlike the other parties in Bristol West we don't use remote call centres. All of our voter contact is done by Bristol based volunteers who know their local community."

The Liberal Democrats have set up a new website - - to encourage voters to register formal complaints when they receive nuisance calls from Labour and the Tories. Fines of up to £5,000 per call can be imposed by the Information Commission for abusing the TPS system.

Simon Hughes MP, President of Liberal Democrats, said "Members of the public register with the Telephone Preference Service because they don't want to be called at home. Conservatives and Labour are now improperly pestering voters by telephoning them against their will.

"The Liberal Democrats are the only major party to respect their wishes. We make considerable efforts to try and ensure we do not make calls to TPS registered homes, unless the resident has previously given us their number when contacting us about a local issue. We would never break the law by making robo-calls.

"We think that both the letter and spirit of the law should be honoured, and that all the political parties should respect the wishes of those voters who have asked not to be called.

"From today, our new website will help people make official complaints - each one of which could lead to a £5,000 fine for the party concerned.

"It is time that the other two parties respected the rights of voters and consumers."

Stephen Williams has sent the following letter to Labour MP Valerie Davey demanding an end to such calls:

Dear Valerie

We have received a number of complaints about the aggressive telephone campaign being carried out on your behalf.

1 It appears that your telephone canvassers are ignoring the rules of the Telephone Preference Service. Electors who have registered with TPS have specifically stated that they do not want to receive telephone calls from "cold callers". The Information Commissioner has confirmed many times that the TPS regulations apply to political parties as well as commercial organisations. Yet your canvassers are calling electors who have registered with TPS, flouting the wishes of Bristol West residents and ignoring the law. My own telephone canvassing operation excludes TPS registered voters. This procedure causes us considerable expense and administrative time. Why can't the Labour Party do the same? Perhaps you can afford the £5,000 fine due if someone pursues a complaint?

2 We have also received complaints that the Labour Party is "robo-calling" voters with an automated message asking them to reveal their voting preferences by pressing their key pads. I have been advised that such automated calls are ILLEGAL in the UK and the rest of the EU. It is common knowledge that companies get round this law by routing the calls from a server outside the EU ("you have won a holiday in Florida" etc etc messages) but surely the party of government in our country should not deliberately evade UK law in this way? However, it appears that the calls being made on your behalf originate from a UK source. A complainant dialled 1471 after the call and found that it came from 0870 5900200 - the number of Labour Party headquarters.

I look forward to receiving your personal assurance that your canvassers will stop placing nuisance calls to TPS registered voters and to your further assurance that the Labour Party will cease sending automated messages to Bristol West residents.

You have stated in the past that you want a clean and good natured campaign in Bristol West. If you truly mean this then I trust that you will immediately cease flouting UK law and regulations in what appears to be an increasingly desperate attempt to cling to your seat.

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