Fiona expresses serious concern at Government delaying implementation of age verification to protect children from online harm

Speaking during an Urgent Question in the House of Commons on Thursday 17th October, Fiona said:

“This is more than disappointing; it is critically urgent. Over half a million pornographic images are posted daily on social media platforms, and there cannot be a parent in the land who is not worried sick about this. The Government need to treat this with much more urgency and respect than they have done. How are the Government—how is the Minister—going to demonstrate urgency in protecting our children from accessing pornographic websites? There are over 50 streaming this material daily, many not from the UK.”

Minister, Matt Warman responded:

“My hon. Friend is of course completely right. It is a critically urgent issue, but it is also critically urgent that we get it right, and I do think that we can make that progress by doing it in a way that is comprehensive, in line with the online harms agenda. However, I am not seeking to make age verification line up with that timescale. We will do this aspect of the policy as quickly as we possibly can, and I honestly look forward to working with her on that.”

The exchange took place following the announcement by Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Nicky Morgan, that the Government will not now be commencing part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2018 concerning age verification for online pornography. The full statement can be found at https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2019-10-16/HCWS13/

Speaking after the question Fiona said:

“It is deeply troubling to those of us who have worked so hard on age verification to help protect children from seeing pornography on mobile phones and other devices, that the Government is delaying introducing this. This legislation may not be perfect, and the technicalities of implementation are indeed challenging, but the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. Especially not in this case; childhoods are incredibly short, but the harm done by seeing pornography can last years- in some cases a lifetime - not least terms of understanding what healthy personal relationships are. The Government should have introduced this legislation now, and built on it further. There will now be many months, possibly longer, during which countless childhoods will be marred by viewing damaging online images, as a result of this unacceptable delay. I welcome the Minister’s offer to work with me on this going forward and shall certainly be holding the Government to account.”