Digital Economy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:57 pm on 13th September 2016.

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Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education, Skills and the Economy Sub-Committee 5:57 pm, 13th September 2016

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He raises an important point. My hon. Friend Kit Malthouse raised the issue of what people get, in that sometimes they do not get what they expect to get and sometimes they do get it and then it becomes less later. That is the sort of problem that we have. Consumers are concerned about it, and rightly so. It is also clearly a problem for small businesses, as I said. These matters need to be dealt with.

I want to endorse something that my hon. Friend Damian Collins talked about: copyright and protection of intellectual property. He made a strong point. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee will benefit from his expertise in this matter. He rightly pointed out that copyright on the internet is sometimes vulnerable and we need to make sure that measures are strengthened in that respect.

I now turn to something completely different, which is not in the Bill although I think it should be: subtitles. This connects with the interests of, for example, Action On Hearing Loss. The Bill offers a great opportunity to improve access to information for people with hearing difficulties by changing the structure of services. Would the Government consider using the Bill to improve the provision of subtitles on on-demand services, given the drastic improvement of their provision on linear television following legislation that has since become outdated? We need to look at this area. I am half deaf myself. My left ear does not work at all, but I can still hear. Nevertheless, that gives me a huge amount of sympathy and understanding for those who cannot hear at all. There could be an opportunity to help them, and the Government should be looking at it.

It is certainly right that young children should be prevented from looking at pornography. It is also absolutely right that we should be thinking in terms of the measures that the Government have introduced. However, some of the operators in this field, and some of the social media operators, operate almost like fiefdoms, and we have to really get some control over them. If an outfit is told to switch something off but does not do so, I am not entirely sure what the Government are going to do about it. Will they say, “We are going to fine you now,” and then hope for the best? The problem is that so many of the types of structures that we want to restrict, or even prevent from operating altogether, are international, based in countries where we do not have any jurisdiction, and sometimes—certainly in the case of Russia—have a very difficult relationship. The Government need to think carefully about how they are going to put some real strength behind these measures, which are quite sensible in terms of aspiration but have to be delivered in a way that works.