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Division Details - Lords House of Lords

18:12, 20 March 2017, Division 2: Digital Economy Bill

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Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Pre Vote

My Lords, I shall make a few points, although this was discussed in rather greater detail a little earlier. I start with the use of the word, “suspect” in relation to prohibited materials. It seems to me that it is suspect with the Crown Prosecution Service; it is an odd definition and does not mean that it is generally applicable. The words, “prohibited materials” were removed from the Bill as a result of the Perry amendment in the Commons: they were in the Bill anyway. It is important that that point is known. I have to say to the Minister that the move by the Government from children to adults in the amendments is due to the government amendments, which have been picked up by myself and other noble Lords. We would not have raised these issues without the government amendments. It is important to say that because I have no desire whatever to frustrate or inhibit the excellent work on age verification to be found in the Bill.

I think everybody agrees that this is now a mess. There is need for a proper debate on internet safety strategy, but it needs, if I may say so, a review with some teeth and pressure on the Government because of all the other government work there will be in the light of Brexit. The otherwise admirable amendment of the Labour Front Bench is, in my view, insufficiently strong because it has no teeth.

My amendment is not, despite what has been said, unduly prescriptive. If one looks with some care at the wording, which I am glad to say someone else drafted, subsection (1)(a) of the proposed new clause says that,

“section 16(1)(g) to (i) ceases to have effect”,

but that is a fallback position. It is there to require the Government, under proposed new subsections (2) to (6), to have a review and to draft a report which will be laid before Parliament. It applies only if that is not achieved within two years, and since the Government are offering at least a Green Paper by June it should not be all that difficult to have a review and a report. Consequently, the work that is suggested in this amendment meets what is needed, which is two things: that the mess should be reviewed; and that the Government should be under a degree of pressure to make sure they get on with it and do not put it into the long grass, not because they want to do so but because of the pressure of other government business. I beg to move and, if no one else wishes to speak, I should like to test the opinion of the House.

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