The Government announced on Wednesday evening that the Online Safety Bill will not complete its final stages through the House of Commons next week.
The Bill, which legislates on a range of harms including online sexual abuse, terrorism and fraud, was scheduled to complete its Report Stage and Third Reading in the Commons next Wednesday 20 July – one day before Parliament breaks up for Summer recess.
However, the scheduling of a no confidence vote in and by the Government for Monday, prompted by pressure from Labour this week, means that next week’s business has been pushed back by one day. This leaves no time for the Online Safety Bill to return to the Commons until the autumn. It will then need to pass through the House of Lords before becoming law.
Under normal political circumstances this pause would be somewhat frustrating, but not too concerning. However, the Bill’s delay, combined with a Conservative leadership election, means that it will be up to the incoming Prime Minister and their ministers to decide when to schedule the next stage.
Parts of the Bill which gave the Government powers to tackle online abuse had already been causing disquiet on the Conservative backbenches. The Bill’s delay means that these concerns are now playing a part in the Conservative leader election – with candidate Kemi Badenoch MP celebrating the hold and saying that the Bill is “in no fit state to become law”.
This is of grave concern to Keoghs and many of our clients who have welcomed elements of the Bill, notably those tackling fraudulent advertising online. In its current form, the Bill would compel social media companies and search engines to remove fraudulent advertising and would provide Ofcom with greater regulatory powers to enforce these new laws.
“We are disappointed that the Online Safety Bill’s progress through the House of Commons has been delayed until autumn at the earliest. We are also hugely concerned by suggestions from Conservative leadership candidates that they would further delay and water down the content of the Bill if appointed Prime Minister.
The Online Safety Bill is a vital piece of legislation for consumers, particularly its passages on tackling fraud. Cybercrime has increased significantly in recent years, and we have welcomed the current Government’s efforts to address it by compelling social media companies and search engines to remove fraudulent advertising – which often imitates legitimate businesses including insurers.
We are calling on all Conservative leadership candidates to commit to not delaying this piece of legislation further should they be given the keys to 10 Downing Street in September.”
Head of Market Affairs
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