Digital Economy Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 8th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 7:15 pm, 8th February 2017

My Lords, I am grateful for the support from all noble Lords on this. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that I feel well and truly probed after this Committee stage.

We have a voluntary system that is going well, but I accept that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, has a point in asking about the remaining amounts that are not covered. We might query the numbers that she is talking about. My information is that the latest figures from Ofcom and the industry indicate that around 95% of the UK fixed broadband market offers free network-level or device-level parental filters to their customers. The numbers are important but the principle is there—what are we doing about the providers that are not covered?

The remaining 5% are generally small internet service providers offering business-to-business or niche specialist services to more tech-savvy customers. Some small ISPs have a business model based very transparently on not filtering, for open-rights reasons. However, many of them already provide guidance to customers where appropriate on free device-based or network-level filter tools. Still, we recognise the concern to do everything we can to protect children online, and I am happy to say that after discussions with my officials last week or the week before, the Internet Services Providers’ Association has agreed to take further action to encourage its smaller members to consider online safety and filters. It is updating its code of practice and new member sign-up process to ensure that members consider offering filters to their customers, and issuing a guidance note to members on filters, signposting them to further help and support. So we have addressed that point. It is still on a voluntary basis so far, and we will continue to monitor how that is going.

Amendment 227 agreed.