Select Committee on the Constitution Report on the Digital Economy Bill

This is a summary of the Select Committee on the Constitution Report on the Digital Economy Bill published on 17 January 2017.

The Select Committee on the Constitution shares the concerns raised in the DPRR Committee’s report for Parts 1-4 of the DEBill. The new report makes comments regarding Clause 6 in Part 2 on Digital infrastructure, Part 3 on Online pornography, appeals against decisions by Ofcom and BBC.

Criticism of Part 3 of the DEBill: The Select Committee made criticism that relates to the points raised by the DPRR Committee on the age-verification regulator having power to define key terms and concepts by issuing guidance and guidelines. The Select Committee’s report questions “whether the House can effectively scrutinise the Bill when its scrutiny is impeded by the absence from the face of the Bill of any detail about the operation of the proposed age-verification regime.”

The Committee further criticises the lack of any subsequent opportunities for parliamentary scrutiny of the legislation since the details of the guidelines will be set out by the age-verification regulator and not by Ministers.

The report stated that guidelines issued by the age-verification regulator foreclose the possibility of parliamentary scrutiny and the Government’s reasoning of “need for flexibility” does not hold up.

Recommendation: The House of Lords should consider whether it is appropriate to include a greater degree of detail on the face of the Bill.

The Committee finds it more appropriate to include more details on the guidance and guidelines for Part 3 on Online Pornography on the face of the Bill to make sure that age-verification process is subjected to Parliamentary scrutiny.

Note: The Committee quoted the ICO written evidence submission regarding adequate age-verification requirements for the purpose of compliance.

“She [the Information Commissioner] observed that there is an imperative need to “find a balance between verifying the age of individuals and minimising the collection and retention of personal data”—which would mean “only collecting and recording the minimum data required in the circumstances” and “ensuring that the purposes for which any data is used are carefully and restrictively defined, and that any activities keep to those restricted purposes”.”

Link to the report:

Committee members: Lord Beith

Lord Brennan

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde

Lord Hunt of Wirral

Lord Judge

Lord Lang of Monkton (Chairman)

Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market

Lord Maclennan of Rogart

Lord Morgan

Lord Norton of Louth

Lord Pannick

Baroness Taylor of Bolton