Tue, 27 July 2021

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
From past glories to new hopefuls, MPs share what the Olympics mean to them Partner content
Education
World Youth Skills Day: Paying tribute to the resilience and creativity of youth through the pandemic Partner content
By The National Lottery
Coronavirus
We must broaden diversity and inclusion in personalised nutrition and lifestyle medicine Partner content
Health
Culture
Culture
Press releases

Government must implement pornography safeguards

Government must implement pornography safeguards
Lord Morrow

Lord Morrow

3 min read

Failure to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act will cause more harm to our most vulnerable citizens, children, and compound degrading attitudes towards women and girls.

Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act would require pornography sites to ensure that users are over the age of 18 before gaining access to content. It would also appoint a regulator with powers to take robust action against any sites which host the most violent form of illegal pornography, ‘extreme pornography’, which normalises violence against women. I say “would” because Part 3 of the DEA has never actually been brought into force.

The legislation was a key Conservative party 2015 manifesto commitment. The government quite rightly introduced Part 3 and all the attendant secondary legislation and clearly intended to implement it until October 2019, when it performed a spectacular U-turn, announcing that it was going back to the drawing board to develop entirely new legislation.

Ministers claim the forthcoming online harms bill now renders Part 3 redundant. But the truth is, even if the Online Safety Bill was introduced tomorrow, it would still be some years before children would be protected from pornographic websites. The failure to implement Part 3 in 2019, has already needlessly denied children the protection that Parliament has afforded them for an extra 18 months and there is no way the new primary and secondary legislation can be developed passed and implemented with a new regulator for at least another three years and probably longer.

Given this situation, I have felt it necessary to introduce the Digital Economy Act (Implementation Part 3) Bill, which requires that Part 3 must be implemented no later than June 2022. Ministers have sought to argue - very unconvincingly - that implementing Part 3 would take a couple of years. In truth, it does not need to take anything like that long if the government re-designated the British Board of Film Classification as regulator and had them act as regulator in the interim period until the new legislation is ready.

I am but one voice calling for Ministers to change course and implement Part 3 of the DEA. In May, a letter to the Prime Minister led by the indefatigable children’s champion, Baroness Floella Benjamin, signed by numerous Peers and groups including Barnardos, the PSHE Association and the Women’s Aid Federation of England, said that in the context of societal concern about women’s safety and given the growing body of research demonstrating a clear association between pornography consumption violence against women and girls, the failure to implement Part 3 has become “unsustainable”.

Scottish Parliamentarians, led by Rhoda Grant MSP, also recently added their voice to the fray. A motion at Holyrood backed by 14 MSPs expressed “concern” about the UK government’s failure to implement Part 3 and urged Ministers to “implement Part 3 of the 2017 Act without further delay, so as to ensure that children and women in Scotland and throughout the UK are protected”. As someone who lives in Northern Ireland, I can assure Ministers that the concerns of Scottish politicians are echoed across the Irish Sea.

In addition, a judicial review of the non-implementation of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act has been initiated by Ava Vakil, an inspiring student activist involved in raising the issue of sexual violence among teenagers and Ioannis Dekas, a father whose young son was damaged by his exposure to pornographic web sites.

The government should stop opposing its own manifesto commitment to protect children from pornographic web sites and move to immediately implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act. A failure to do so will only cause more harm to our most vulnerable citizens, children, and compound degrading attitudes towards women and girls.

 

Lord Morrow is a DUP peer.

PoliticsHome Newsletters

Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.

Categories

Culture