On 5th November 2014, the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Consumer Rights Bill, in support of Baroness Howe of Idilcote’s amendment which would require internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide default adult content filtering. Following the debate, Baroness Howe withdrew her amendment, but suggested that she would re-table it at Report Stage.
The Lord Bishop of Truro: My Lords, I support the amendment and am grateful to the noble Baroness for providing a comprehensive and excellent introduction to it. I do not want to repeat the important points that have already been made; I simply want to underline one particularly important point.
These days, we all have a responsibility to take child protection and safeguarding very seriously. Your Lordships may or may not be aware that you cannot be made a bishop in the Church of England unless you have had statutory safeguarding training. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has made that very clear in all that he has said and done, and that seems absolutely right and proper.
It strikes me that, of all areas, this is one where we should do all that we can to protect our children. I sometimes worry about the matters that we are not worrying about now. I fear that in 20 years’ time we will look back and say, “Why on earth didn’t we do something about this?”. I often think back to the days when I would have got in a car and not been bothered that I was not wearing a safety belt. It strikes me that this is an issue that we can take seriously. We are of course dealing with the Consumer Rights Bill and I am concerned that we spend a lot of time worrying about rights but do not think about responsibilities. We have a responsibility to care for and protect our children.
I declare an interest as chairman of the Children’s Society. At every board meeting, we have a representative number of children and young people. I can tell your Lordships that at every single meeting those young people teach me something about the internet and the world wide web which I did not have a clue about. They are far savvier than I will ever be and allegedly I am not as old as some of my colleagues.
Therefore, I very much support the amendment and I stress that we have responsibilities as well as rights. The word “safeguarding” and the fact that we take child protection very seriously do not undermine in any way the important points that have been made. The imbalance between what happens offline and online seems quite extraordinary. Surely this is an area where we should have legislation that regulates and protects all children.