Conservative leadership candidate Kemi Badenoch has said the Online Safety Bill is “in no fit state to become law” as the government confirmed that the legislation’s final stages have been delayed.
Former minister Ms Badenoch, who is through to the second round of voting in the Conservative Party’s leadership race today, said postponing the Bill was the “right move”.
She added that if she were to be successful in her bid to become leader, she would “ensure the bill doesn’t overreach”.
Responding to earlier reports the legislation had been delayed, Ms Badenoch tweeted: “This would be the right move. The Bill is in no fit state to become law.
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“If I’m elected prime minister I will ensure the Bill doesn’t overreach. We should not be legislating for hurt feelings.”
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who is overseeing the bill’s passage through Parliament, replied: “Which part of the Bill legislates for hurt feelings, Kemi?”
Ms Dorries is supporting Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the Conservative leadership contest.
The Online Safety Bill’s purpose is to legislate rules for how online platforms should deal with harmful content.
The bill is currently at the report stage and had been due to have a third reading in the Commons next week.
But in delivering the business statement to MPs on Thursday, Commons Leader Mark Spencer did not mention the Online Safety Bill as part of the coming week’s business.
The PM’s official spokesperson later said the bill is being delayed due to limited parliamentary time in the run-up to the summer recess.
“There is, as you approach summer recess, limited time,” he said.
“There are a wide range of competing demands that need to be considered before the House rises. They include the Northern Ireland Protocol
“Some of that time will be devoted to the vote of confidence. We have seen before that there are prioritisation decisions that need to be taken at this point.”
The bill is expected to be tabled in the autumn once the new prime minister has taken office, the PA news agency has reported.
The original draft of the legislation was introduced by former prime minister Theresa May in 2019.
But since then, it has been heavily amended and continues to be seen as a controversial bill.
Campaigners have warned that the delay could be detrimental in the fight to keep children safe online.
Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, said: “The Online Safety Bill is a crucial piece of legislation that is fundamentally about protecting children from harm and abuse that is taking place on an industrial scale on social media.
“Any delay will mean families continue to pay the price for the failure and inaction of tech firms who have allowed harm to fester rather than get their house in order.
“Online regulation is therefore vital to force their hand and delivering this legislation should be a cornerstone of any government’s duty to keep the most vulnerable in our society safe.”
Back in January, a group of MP warned that some of the most “insidious” images of child abuse and violence against women and girls could evade the legislation.
The Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, which scrutinised the government’s draft Online Safety Bill.
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