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Online Harms

Volume 696: debated on Monday 7 June 2021

The Home Office is working across Government to tackle online harms though the online safety Bill and other measures. That Bill will be a truly world-leading and much needed piece of legislation to make the UK the safest place to be online. Although the draft Bill will be scrutinised by Parliament, the Government continue to work nationally and internationally to tackle online harms, including through the G7 and Five Country Governments.

The ease with which even primary school-aged children can access extreme but legal pornography is frightening, and it is warping a whole generation’s view of healthy sexual relationships. Will the Minister assure me that the longstanding issue of age verification for legal pornography will finally be addressed in the online safety Bill?

This issue concerns many Members across the House, and it has been voiced by many parents across the country. We must consider not just the online safety Bill, but the wider question of education and ensuring that our children are taught what is a healthy relationship and what is not. The hon. Lady will know the massive progress made by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which set out clear parameters regarding the so-called rough sex defence as well as non-fatal strangulation. She will know that discussions are ongoing with the Departments for Education and for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about how we can cement that approach in legislation and, crucially, through education.

The director general of MI5 has said that Facebook is giving terrorists a “free pass” by introducing end-to-end encryption, which effectively blocks the security and intelligence services from monitoring suspects and potential plots. Despite what the Minister said, the online safety Bill is very vague—in fact, some might say it is a bit wishy-washy—when it comes to measures to counter these dangerous activities, so will she commit today to treating this matter with the seriousness and urgency that it requires and that Ken McCallum has demanded?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman understands the seriousness with which the Home Secretary, and also the Prime Minister and the Government, take such matters. I do not agree with his description of the online safety Bill. Indeed, he will note the confidence with which the Government have put it forward as a draft Bill in order to allow Parliament to scrutinise it. On Facebook and its activities, it should be in no doubt that under the new Bill as it stands at the moment, it will be held to account for its activities. The development of its systems is a matter for it, and it must justify that to the public and to this Government.