Digital Economy Bill September 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the Digital Economy Bill and the related campaign by the Open Rights Group.

The Second Reading of the Bill took place in the House of Commons on 13 September 2016 and it passed without a vote. I have significant concerns about the Bill and I hope to see it improved. 

I support the Bill's introduction of further measures to protect children from pornography. As you aware, the Bill includes provisions for an age verification process from commercial providers. There is no clear idea of how the Bill deals with foreign sites and free sites and there are also privacy issues throughout the Bill. I hope that at Committee Stage the practicality and effectiveness of the measures proposed will be improved. 

I agree with the Open Rights Group that child protection should also be addressed from alternative perspectives and that children and young adults should receive effective education and guidance. Indeed, there should be compulsory sex and relationships education in our schools, so that young people can be taught about healthy relationships.

Like the Open Rights Group I have concerns about data sharing safeguards. Data sharing can bring huge benefits to making public and private services more effective. However, there needs to be a framework of data ethics, data principles and the rights of citizens. The Bill fails to initiate a debate and set out the right transparent framework for this. The Bill promotes further sharing of public sector data with a wide range of organisations and in a wide variety of situations without establishing principles for how it should be shared and safeguarded, or ensuring public trust. 

I welcome proposals to bring aspects of our copyright law into the 21st century, rewarding artists and our creative industries for the huge contribution they make to our economy. However, again, I think it will be important to test at the Committee Stage of the Bill how effective the proposals will be in practice. 

I hope I have set out that I believe there are a range of substantial omissions and errors in the Bill that I would like to see corrected as it progresses. Briefings and comment from the Open Rights Group and others will be useful in highlighting a range of views and evidence to Parliament. 

Thank you again for writing to me.