The Digital Economy Act 2017 introduced the requirement for commercial providers of online pornography to have robust age-verification controls in place to prevent children and young people under 18 from accessing pornographic material that is made available on a commercial basis.
Section 14(2) of the Act states:
“The Secretary of State may make regulations specifying…circumstances in which material is or is not to be regarded as made available on a commercial basis.”
So, in a sense, this is a small part of the legislative jigsaw needed to implement age verification. It is the last piece. I therefore ask that the draft Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2018, and the two pieces of guidance published by the British Board of Film Classification on age-verification arrangements and on ancillary services providers be approved.
I should bring to the attention of the House the concerns of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which I thank for their work. I will address their concerns in a moment but, before coming to the specific points related to this debate, I remind the House why we are introducing this requirement.
In the offline world, there are strict rules to deter children from accessing adult content. A large amount of pornography is available on the internet in the UK, often for free, with little or no protections to ensure that those accessing the content are old enough to do so.