Monday, 20 July 2015

Online Safety Bill moves to the next stage

Thank you for taking the time over the past week to contact a Peer about Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill.

In its manifesto for the recent general election, The Conservative Party promised:
“We will stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content online, by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material”.

The opportunity for the Government to honour its commitment came before the House of Lords on 17th July with the second reading of Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill.

Many people used our campaign website to contact Peers ahead of the debate, urging them to speak in favour of the Bill.

Many Peers did attend the debate which was, by and large, very supportive of her proposals.  The Lords agreed to move the Bill forward to Committee stage, at which point the Bill will be further scrutinised and amendments will be considered.

Sadly the Government did not choose to adopt the provisions of the Bill to accomplish the aims set out in their manifesto.  However the Minister, Baroness Shields, acknowledged the “horrific problem” of the easy availability of online pornography and said that the Government would consider Lady Howe’s approach alongside other options currently under examination.

Lord Framlingham, speaking in support of the Bill, pointed out the lack of speed in action taken on the issues raised in the Bill so it is to be hoped that further time will be found in the parliamentary timetable over the coming months for a Committee Stage debate in order to keep the pressure on the Government to act quickly.

There is strong public support for measures ensure that websites with pornographic content carry out proper age-verification of users in order to protect children.  In a recent poll three-quarters of those asked agreed this should be done.

Although it is disappointing that the Government did not take the opportunity offered in the debate to adopt the Bill, it is encouraging that the debate continues to move in the right direction.  As Lady Howe said: “Each time one puts pressure on the Government, it improves the situation.”  We now look forward to a further opportunities to hold the Government to account to their manifesto promises at Committee Stage.

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