Porn age verification plans delayed again as 'UK failed to notify EU'

Posted On: 
20th June 2019

The Government’s controversial pornography age verification plans have been delayed again, because the UK failed to properly notify the EU about them.

Labour branded the Government's pornography age verfication plans an 'utter shambles'
Credit: 
PA

The Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright was forced to apologise in the House of Commons for the error in drafting the law, which had already been delayed once before.

Labour dubbed the policy, which would need someone to prove they were an adult before accessing pornographic content, an “utter shambles”.

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Mr Wright told MPs there was an “administrative error” when the piece of secondary legislation was laid down in Parliament last year, which will delay the process by another six months.

Ahead of the planned introduction of age verification on July 15, he said: “It has come to my intention in recent days that an important notification process was not undertaken for an important part of this policy. And I regret to say that this will delay the commencement day.

“I want to take the opportunity today to come to the House as soon as possible to apologise for the mistake that has been made, and explain its implications.

“In April of last year we laid three instruments before the House for approval. One of those instruments, on guidance for age verification arrangements, set out standards that companies need to comply with.

“This should have been notified to the European Union Commission in line with the technical standards and regulations directive. And it was not.”

The Cabinet minister said the EU has now been notified and the guidance will be re-laid in parliament, but it will result in a “delay in the region of six months”.

An inquiry has been launched, with Mr Wright claiming “mechanisms will be put in place to make sure it does not happen again”.

He suggested in the meantime there was “nothing to stop” porn providers from bringing in age verification on a voluntary basis, and remained defiant the plans would eventually become law, saying: “Although my statement is an apology for delay it is not a change of policy.”

He said this “needs to happen and is the clear will of the House”, despite privacy campaigners claiming it could lead to people’s browsing habits being made public if the data was ever leaked.

The plans, introduced as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017, were said to be world first and would require people to either use IDs like a passport or credit card to view adult material online, or to purchase an over-the-counter card from shops.

In response to Mr Wright, Labour’s shadow minister for youth affairs Cat Smith said: “This statement is proof that a serious and important policy issue has descended into an utter shambles under this Government.”

Jim Killock, executive director of campaigners Open Rights Group, said: “While it’s very embarrassing to delay age verification for the third time, this is an opportunity for the Government to address the many problems that this ill-thought through policy poses.”

He added: “The Government needs to use this delay to introduce legislation that will ensure the privacy and security of online users is protected.”