Digital Economy

Part of Uk-EU Negotiations – in the House of Commons at 7:05 pm on 17th December 2018.

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Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport 7:05 pm, 17th December 2018

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he has done while chairing that important body, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. I have already made clear in my answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke, the Chair of the Select Committee, that we do recognise that these regulations are a first step. Although we have high expectations of what they can achieve, we are fully aware that they do not go as far as to be able to satisfy the vast majority of our concerns where social media platforms are concerned, where the majority of content is not pornographic.

I would like to reassure the House, however, that I do believe that these regulations will be more effective than my hon. Friend fears, because they will cover sites that make pornography available free of charge. As he rightly points out, the majority of young people access pornography without paying for the service. However, if they access it from a site that is predominantly pornographic and is offering a pornographic service on a commercial basis, then, whether it is free of charge or paid for, the regulations will capture both. I would like to reassure him that these regulations will bring into scope the sites about which he is concerned that currently provide these services free of charge.

My hon. Friend will also be reassured to know, when I go on to explain a little more about the actual process of age verification, that it is not simply a matter of being able to offer a credit card. The rigour of age verification provision will be stricter than that. That will also help to counter the growing trend of young people accessing pornography before they attain the age of 18.