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Digital Economy

Part of Uk-EU Negotiations – in the House of Commons at 8:13 pm on 17th December 2018.

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Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup Conservative, Erewash 8:13 pm, 17th December 2018

I knew that parliamentarians on both sides of the Chamber agree that we have a duty to provide the framework to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. That is why I welcome the legislative steps to implement the age-verification controls that we are talking about tonight. That is especially the case since I have read some of the evidence, although that also made me question whether we are going far enough—a question on all our lips tonight.

The survey carried out on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s Childline service showed that one in five children aged between 11 and 17 said that they had seen pornographic images that had shocked or upset them. That is why this legislation is so important.

We have talked about technology and how fast-moving it is, and that can work both ways. It could perhaps help us to provide stronger controls if we grasp what may happen in the coming months and make sure that we use the technology to the fullest. However, we must also be aware that technology can advantage the online providers of the pornography that we are trying to prevent our young people from seeing. It is important that we keep up to date with what is happening in the technology world. As others have said, the measures should be the starting point, not the end point. I would really appreciate it if the Minister clarified what further steps were being taken to make sure that we moved forward with this over the coming months and years.

The key focus of what we are discussing is that children should be protected online in the same way as they are offline. We have other prohibitions for goods that are inappropriate for different ages, such as tobacco and alcohol—to me, this is an extension of those principles. It is right that we look at how to protect children and young people from inappropriate online images.

There has been a lot of talk tonight about social media and how the legislation does not cover that. Hopefully, some of the responsible providers of social media are watching and listening and, through the nudge effect, will be able to implement good practices based on the new regulations that we are introducing for online providers. We know that the nudge principle works in other areas, so perhaps we can keep an eye on that as well to make sure that we take every possible advantage from what we are discussing across all the different platforms.

It is also important that we do not forget about parental responsibility, because that is still a big way of stopping children from seeing inappropriate images. When I was talking to a colleague earlier, she said that as parents she and her partner thought that they had done the right thing by putting the computer in the hallway so that they were walking past all the time, but such actions do not stop parents going out and leaving children at home as young adults. Whatever parents do, sometimes it is not enough, which is why I welcome these measures.

My right hon. Friend Mrs Miller mentioned that what we are doing might be misunderstood by parents, who may feel that they do not need to provide any parental guidance. We need to make sure that parents still understand that they have that responsibility and that the legislation and framework being put in are not a panacea, but the start of a long pathway to making sure that we protect our children from pornography and that they develop healthy, strong relationships and are not affected by what they see as children.