On 1st December 2016, Baroness Howe of Idicote led a short debate in the Lords to ask the Government “what steps they are taking in order to achieve compliance with the new European Union net-neutrality Connected Continent requirements in such a way that United Kingdom adult content filtering regimes can be maintained in order to help keep children safe online.” The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, took part in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the House should be deeply grateful indeed to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for her persistence in bringing before us the difficult issue of online safety, particularly as it affects our children. I must say, the thickness of the plot as she set it out in her opening speech would be a credit to Agatha Christie herself in this particular aspect of it. We will be returning to the broader aspects when the Digital Economy Bill comes before us shortly. I believe that there is also a forthcoming report by the Communications Select Committee on children and the internet.
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.
On 6th December 2013, the Bishop of Chester spoke during the Second Reading of Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill. Speaking in support of the Bill and strengthening legal protections for children, he argued that the regulation of the internet was a question that couldn’t be avoided. An approach based on self-regulation only would not be sufficient. He noted that the danger in the information age was that we do not see beyond the information itself to the higher realities of knowledge and wisdom that that abundance of information should seek to serve. The Bishop of Derby also spoke during the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, it will not surprise the House to learn that I support the Bill, and I add my words of gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for her energy and persistence in bringing it forward. The Bill deals with an important aspect of child protection in relation to violent, abusive and, especially, pornographic material. In speaking mainly about pornography, I make it clear that I do not think that the issues around pornography in our society relate only to children. Indeed, I have a Motion for balloted debate which would look at the wider issues and the impact of pornography on our society. I hope that the House will have a chance to explore those rather difficult issues at some point before too long.