On 6th December 2013, the Bishop of Derby spoke during the Second Reading of Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill. He drew a parallel with the need for a change of culture in the banking industry, arguing for a change of culture in the entertainment industry away from violence, extremism and exploitation.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for and on her persistence in steering us in what I think we all see is the right direction. Much has been said, so I will just pick up a couple of themes and will then pursue a particular point and ask the Minister about. Noble Lords have referred to the Prime Minister’s speeches on this area. If you read those speeches, part of their rationale is because he wants to put the family at the centre of a stable society. The family is about a web of mutual relationships—it is about mutuality, not about exploitation. That is the issue that we have to get hold of very clearly. We have heard from many noble Lords about how pornography is exploitative in every way. We have heard about its harmful effects on young people especially, about understandings of sex, how boys are led to see that sex is about having power over women, and how girls are led to see that sex is about performing in a certain kind of way. It causes very damaging ideas about body image. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, about the objectification of women and violence against women.
All those things are about not mutuality but exploitation of one human being by another. They damage the family and the fabric of society. Therefore, besides the issues about technical controls, I want us just to think for a moment about what is driving this and pushing us to try to put up the barriers. It seems that the driver, as other noble Lords have alluded to, is aggressive business that makes a great deal of money out of the pornographic industry. The Bailey report about the sexualisation of children talked about pop-ups that confront people and lead them astray while they are using the internet. It uses the term “pestering”. There is a direction in highly organised business that pesters people, enticing and pushing them into the area of exploitation.
Last night I was privileged to attend a debate on the banking industry in this House led by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. One of the things that that debate made clear was that an industry that is vital to us and very important had gone astray in the sense of having the right kinds of moral compass and moral values. The most reverend Primate talked about the need to change the culture in that industry so that mutuality, proper standards and trust could be regained.
The same applies to what is euphemistically called the entertainment industry. There is an enormous drive in it that shatters our trust that we can entrust our children—or even ourselves—to it. We have to be very careful about the language we use. We are talking about safety, which is a very soft word. We use the word “adult” for certain kinds of material. That kind of material does not make anyone adult at all. Adults are people who do mutuality, not exploitation.
That industry is about violence, cruelty and misogyny. That brings us to the classic debate that is around today between freedom on the one hand and censorship and control on the other. Some noble Lords may have noticed that Theresa May talked in a speech yesterday about the importance of freedom of speech, but said that that should not extend to giving a platform for what she called “violent extremism”. There have to be some limits. She talked about the danger of organisations, in the name of freedom of speech, giving violent extremists space for a platform. There is an analogy there that we need to think about very carefully. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, spoke very eloquently about the importance of possibly legislating and not just creating a platform of freedom for people who behave in that way. Can we learn anything from the Home Secretary’s approach to violence and extremism? That is what we are talking about in this debate: violence and extremism, and exploitation.
Therefore I invite the Minister to comment, not simply on the importance of technical controls or about simply trying to educate parents and help them in their responsibility. Do the Government have a role in this case—as they perhaps have in handling violence and extremism in other areas of the political landscape—to help us to create a frame that will make it difficult both for exploitation to trump mutuality; and for an entertainment industry, which sounds a great thing for adults, to be something that is so pernicious and undermining of not just the lives of our children, but of many adults and the relationships they are called to make?
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: ….. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby raised the issues of moral compass, comfort and trust, which are all part of the problem that we have to resolve. My noble friends Lord Cormack and Lady Benjamin spoke powerfully about these matters, which go way beyond this Bill and into how to ensure children and young people enjoy the child’s life that they deserve. Too often, they do not…
….mental health risks to children and young people from many of these advances, which do so much good but have these profound risks. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, gave a very good exposition of the dilemma we face with that effect on young people.
These experiences and attitudes are unacceptable and we must take, and are taking, action to counter them. That is why the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary have taken such a strong position and are showing leadership on this issue. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby asked about this, and I do not say that just because they head up and are a key part of the Government. All sides of the House and all political parties see this as a cause in which we should unite. Whoever the Government of the day are, this is an issue not just because the Prime Minister has young children but because that is the responsible and correct position for people holding high office…