Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by John R. Edwards


The present position of unlimited access to online material is morally dangerous and requires control;

Some form of censorship should be established to determine what should be classified as “Adult Material”;

Parameters should be established as to what classifications of material should be eliminated from online availability;

Grades should be established to determine what material is acceptable for access by young people;

Age levels should be established to determine when access should be allowed to “Adult Material”;

Controls should be instituted which bar young people from access to material deemed unsuitable for them;


1. The Inquiry into this subject arises from the fact that, at the present time, there is no restriction placed on the Internet in respect of juvenile access to material widely accepted as unsuitable for them. Furthermore, such online material is not graded and in the eyes of many much of it is regarded as being in the nature of cruel, salacious and/or obscene. Some would go so far as to say that at least some of it is potentially harmful even to adult viewers.

2. Concern has been increasingly evident that action is required to ensure that some kind of control is established that will at least protect young people in particular from access to material regarded and classified as “Adult Material”.

3. As a lifelong committed and practicing Christian, and as a parent, grandparent and great-grandparent of a total of just on 50 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I have an intense interest in the moral safety of young people and am concerned to witness to the Committee my views, with which many would, I am sure, join, that action is urgently required to bring in a measure of protection for young people against the existing access to the volume of unsuitable online material that is currently so freely available to them.

4. Children are the potential for the oncoming generation. We need to be thinking and planning now for the wellbeing of that new generation. If we permit freedom of access to and do not control the supply to our children of, morally damaging material, the next generation will, inevitably, be basically corrupt. If we are planning and endeavouring to ensure a well educated, law-abiding, honest, principled and upright next generation, we must act now to make as certain as we reasonably can that they are morally equipped to be convinced of and to maintain an upright way of life and to suitably educate their next generation. If, on the other hand, we allow the standard of life to drift whichever way it may go, the result in the oncoming generation could be intolerable, bordering on anarchy. The fact is that people are only law-abiding because they are taught so to be. If the reins of law become slack, the quality of life deteriorates to the point where people do what is best in their own interests regardless of the effect it may have on others.

5. Consideration needs to be given to the ambitions and character that should characterize the oncoming generation. Parental influence needs to be promoted and parental responsibility encouraged so that they teach their children the basic principles of an acceptable way of life.

6. Sex education, whilst theoretically justifiable, inevitably stimulates many children to enquire into what, in effect, is pornography. The basic thinking behind the conception of sex education is clearly the concern that children need to understand the inherent dangers that ignorance involves. Whilst this train of thought is understandable, the real responsibility as to sex education devolves on the parents and the fact that the responsibility has been included in the state education system is an acceptance of and pointer to the fact that parents have been neglecting their duty in this regard.

7. The onset of the IT age has resulted in the computer becoming an essential to life. Children become addicted to the machine to the point where they may feel compelled to use it even to do simple calculations that in times past would have been regarded as mental arithmetic. It has become an avenue for exploration and inevitably children use it to satisfy curiosity in various avenues, many of which are very beneficial. As a tool for subject research it can clearly be advantageous and valuable. Regrettably, however, the freedom of access and the almost infinite range of material available currently enable children to attempt to satisfy their innate curiosity by gaining access to material that could be morally damaging. This is clearly the concern of the Inquiry.

8. The United Kingdom has established and maintained a rule of law based on democracy and the freedom of speech. As political views have changed and the availability of information has increased and become more widespread, it has become increasingly necessary to ensure that established media standards are maintained. This has been generally accepted by the population and political parties have, in the main, worked together to ensure the maintenance of the principles governing media standards.

9. In current law regarding media, there are clear standards concerning what may and what may not be published in newspapers, journal and films. On the other hand, the development of the internet has resulted in a virtually uncontrolled flow of material, quite an assortment of which would not be permitted in a newspaper or journal. What is even worse is that there is no control on the access to such material, whether by adults or children. It is indeed questionable whether such cruel, salacious and/or obscene material, which could not legally be published in a newspaper, should be available at all, whether to adults or children, on the internet.

10. Children generally learn the benefits of access to the internet without necessarily being taught any form of control, leaving it to their judgment as to the limits that they should apply to their access to such material. Indeed, such is the availability of material, that, in the absence of control, it is incredibly simple, once one learns the method of access, for them to gain entry to such sites and to spend as much time as they wish in digesting the stuff.

11. Voluntary controls are available. Thoughtful parents, concerned with the upbringing of their children, can install filters on their computers that limit the availability of access. We are told that 46% of parents have taken advantage of such methods of control and they are to be commended for their action, but that leaves 54% that have not done so, and whose children are therefore vulnerable to the range of such unsuitable material that is so simple to access. Indeed, we are told that 81% of children aged 14 to 16 years have viewed what would be regarded as “Adult Material” online—a very worrying fact.

12. The current law in this country grades films for public showing according to the composition of the audience, in an endeavour to protect young people. The concern behind this Submission would be as to whether it would be possible to apply that principle to the internet. In presenting this Submission, the concern is to underline that the present position is morally unacceptable, to determine what controls need to be established in order to bring about essential control and to encourage the institution of the necessary legislation as quickly as is reasonably possible. The present position is serious and needs urgent attention. The present Inquiry is valuable and places a huge responsibility on the members of the Committee. The concern is to support the Inquiry and those who are appointed by drawing attention to how the present position is regarded by persons who have for a long time carried a serious concern as to the subject.

13. When such legislation is prepared for Parliamentary consideration and enquiry, it is inevitable that some persons and organizations will complain that people’s freedom of expression is being limited. The present law as to libel, slander and sedition already puts certain limitations on the freedom of expression and what is being considered is not incompatible with that. The recommendation would be that the present legal framework should be extended to cover and include such matters as corrupting views, not only sexually explicit words and pictures, but also violence, cruelty and the promotion of terrorism.

14. I submit therefore:

September 2013

Prepared 18th March 2014