Lib Dems to debate relaxed porn laws

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Indy Politics

Demands to lower to 16 the legal age to obtain pornography over the internet look set to dominate the opening of the Liberal Democrats' annual conference in Bournemouth this month.

A group of Lib Dem students have tabled a motion calling for the relaxation in the censorship laws to allow pornography involving "consensual sexual activity" between adults to be available on the internet to those over 16.

It also calls for the lowering of the R18 rating to R16 for porn videos to allow them to be sold or rented from sex shops by those over 16 and for pornography on the internet to be licensed. They also want European-wide regulations covering internet porn ography but couple the call for more liberal laws with a tough stand against paedophilia.

The party's leader, Charles Kennedy, was hoping to use his party's conference to woo dissident pro-European Tories to defect if Iain Duncan Smith wins the Tory leadership. The motion could now open his party to accusations of acting irresponsibly; in the past, Tory and Labour politicians have accused them of being soft on drugs.

Senior figures in the Lib Dems said it was likely that the assembly would support the liberalisation of the laws on internet pornography.

Lord Newby, one of Mr Kennedy's policy advisers said: "Internet child porn is a major problem. This motion recognises there is a difference between that kind of material and the kind of stuff that adults have access to. It is right that we should have a mature and sensible debate about it. It is easy to snigger but this is dealing with a real social issue and although it's not the most important issue facing the country ... we should be looking at it."

Simon Hughes, the party's home affairs Lib Dem spokesman said last night he was "relaxed" about the motion. "The general line is to divide pornography for adults from pornography for young people. Generally, it's better to have a tough regime so you can concentrate on dealing with young people and not to be too illiberal in relation to adults. The party has said for a long time that 16 is the age ... you leave school. I guess the party will say that 16 is the time for this."

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