37 Rosie Winterton debates involving the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

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Football Governance Bill

Rosie Winterton Excerpts
2nd reading
Tuesday 23rd April 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Football Governance Bill 2023-24 View all Football Governance Bill 2023-24 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans
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It is fantastic that the top five leagues will have to have a licence. Will the Secretary of State comment on the resources that will be necessary to put that in place for the season? This is a big undertaking, and considerable resources will be needed to monitor what is going on.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. I know that some colleagues who are intervening might not be seeking to catch my eye later. I remind colleagues that if they do intervene, it is customary for them to stay for the entire speech.

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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The Government are very conscious of the impact on clubs, which is why we are giving them time to prepare for the measures we are bringing into play.

On top of the new licensing system, the regulator will introduce a new strengthened owners and directors test to make sure that a club’s custodians are suitable, and to protect fans from irresponsible owners. This responds directly to growing concerns about financial mismanagement in football, particularly illicit finance, as well as to fans fighting back against owners at clubs like Blackpool and Charlton Athletic. The regulator will also bring in new, robust financial regulation to improve the financial resilience of clubs across the football pyramid.

As members of this House will be all too aware, a lack of financial resilience is one of the key risks to clubs’ futures. Giving the regulator powers to oversee financial plans and to step in to require clubs to beef up their financial resilience, where it has concerns, will prevent clubs from facing cliff-edge situations like we recently saw at Southend United. That will not mean that all clubs have to break even. We know that striving for success can come at a cost and that this ambition makes the game so exciting, so we welcome sustainable, sensible investment. What we cannot have is reckless overspending, irresponsible risk taking and inadequate funding. That is why the regulator will look at each club’s plans and how they are funded, and ensure that clubs have the resources to manage their risk taking. No longer can we have short-term actions jeopardising a club’s long-term sustainability.

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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. I thank the hon. Lady for her kind words about Doncaster Rovers. I get the feeling that I speak for the whole House in saying how pleased we are that her work in this area has been recognised appropriately. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!]

Before I call the next speaker, a great many right hon. and hon. Members wish to contribute, so my first advice to Members is to try to confine their remarks to about seven minutes. I call Kevin Brennan.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I also broadly welcome the Bill. May I add the members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to the list of people whom the Secretary of State praised? I was a member of that Committee until the end of last year, and I am glad to see several of its members in the Chamber for Second Reading.

It is a pleasure to speak directly after my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Dame Tracey Crouch)—I think I can call her a friend after all these years. I commend her for her work in this area and the terrific speech that she has just delivered. I found myself agreeing with pretty much everything that she said. I know that we are in favour of replays, but it would perhaps be wise of me not to repeat everything she said, so I will try not to, although I commend her for what she had to say.

There are still some who question whether Parliament should be regulating in this area at all. Why should we legislate to regulate football? After all, we do not do that in every sport—although, as the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr Walker) pointed out, there is perhaps a strong case for doing so in rugby union after what happened to his local club and other English premiership rugby clubs. However, in reality, Parliament has a long record of legislating specifically in lots of different areas of football. In fact, my private Member’s Bill—the Unauthorised Entry to Football Matches Bill—will have its Committee stage on 8 May, and will, I hope, given its widespread support, make its way into law if we have time before a general election is called. There is a long record of football-specific legislation, so this is not that unusual. Football plays such a huge part in our culture.

Let me say, as the Member of Parliament representing Cardiff West, that although we talk about the English football pyramid, it includes Welsh clubs of course, and has done for well over a century. Football is a huge part of our culture in Wales. In fact, a lot of hon. Members will not know that it is the most popular sport in Wales—more popular even that rugby—helped greatly by the success of our Welsh men’s national football team in recent years, including their reaching the semi-final of the Euros.

Of course, as hon. Members have pointed out, we would not be legislating if football had demonstrated the ability to regulate itself, which many of us—including the late Alan Keen, whom I am glad got a mention in the speech of the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford—have called on it to do for many, many years. It is telling that the Bill is now widely welcomed in almost all tiers of football except, as has been mentioned, the Vanarama national league and the higher echelons of the premier league. I completely acknowledge not only that the premier league is the world’s most successful club competition, but that its existence has brought benefit down the football pyramid.

In the first 25 years of the premier league’s existence, its revenues grew thirtyfold while revenues in the second, third and fourth tiers grew more than tenfold. That is the nub of the issue: if we go on as we are without effective redistributive methods, the inevitable consequence is that that the gap between the top and lower tiers would gradually make the pyramid untenable and unworkable. Without a long-term viable pyramid, football at the top will become even more of a cartel than it currently is.

The Premier League’s chief executive told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee earlier this year, that he was

“totally accepting of the Bill and the regulator coming in after that Bill.”

As the Bill progresses we should bear that comment in mind, which he said on the record to the Select Committee. We should hold the Premier League to that.

As we have heard during the debate, football should be about competition. Business should be about competition, and regulation is about helping to promote fair competition. That is the role of Parliament, Government and the state in this sphere. In the absence of an agreement between the Premier League and the English Football League, the backstop power of the regulator is an essential tool to ensure fair competition, and so that smaller businesses are not ultimately wiped out by the gradual concentration of resources at the top of the game and the impossibility of making progress in the game without taking the sorts of risks that undermine local clubs, and ultimately led to a number of situations that we have heard about. I do not see how Ministers will be able to convince right hon. and hon. Members that that is possible without the regulator having any powers to deal with pyramid payments. As we have heard, the Government’s own White Paper acknowledged the distorting impact that they have on competition. If the Bill is about fair competition, that has to be dealt with.

I want to mention my own club Cardiff City—hon. Members would not expect anyone not to mention their own club. Its stadium is located in my constituency and its recent history has contributed to some of the clauses in the Bill, particularly around fans’ rights. Cardiff City has been very successful during my 23 years in Parliament. It has been in the premier league twice, reached the FA cup final, and lost to Liverpool on penalties in the league cup final, but as is well known, some years ago a new owner, Vincent Tan, decided to change the club’s colours from the traditional blue to red, believing it to be a colour that brought good fortune. If hon. Members can imagine, for a football club universally known as the Bluebirds, the switch to red was somewhat problematic for the fans.

I welcome the fact that the owner changed his mind, and that the Bill would not allow that sort of thing to happen without the involvement of the fans. I can confirm that Cardiff City football club welcomes the Bill. I thank the club’s director Steve Borley, who wrote to me about the Bill. He said that

“the game’s fractured governance model and the inequitable distribution of finances”

is increasingly putting the game at risk. That is why the Bill is so important.

The Bill does not make any reference to the players. That is a missing part. The players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, wrote to hon. Members about that, to say:

“As drafted, there is currently no reference to players within the Bill. We think this is a significant omission”.

I would like to hear from the Minister why that is the case, whether the Government would consider the representations from the players’ union to ensure appropriate references to them in the Bill, and reassurances about some of the existing structures that protect the rights of players, which the union is concerned about.

No one here wants to damage the premier league. I simply want my club, Cardiff City, to have a fair chance of playing in the premier league again. I hope that the Bill will go some way—hopefully improved, strengthened and amended—to ensure a healthier future for football.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con)
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I also rise to welcome the Bill and congratulate the Government on bringing it forward. I have to admit that we on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee were wondering whether this day would ever come, but the Government appear to have been inspired by the mighty Portsmouth football club, who last week secured victory and promotion to the championship with a last-minute goal. It is edge-of-the-seat sporting drama like that that makes British football the best in the world, right from the very bottom to the top—from the millionaires at the top of the premier league to grassroots clubs such as Gosport Borough, who have treated fans to a romping season. They play in the southern football league and sit tantalisingly in the promotion zone. Of course, there is also Fleetlands FC, who are pushing for promotion in division 1 of the Wessex league.

Here in Parliament, we have also been kept on the edge of our seats, eagerly awaiting this Bill that could potentially reshape the landscape of football governance. Over the past few years, instability off the pitch, not the action on it, has increasingly grabbed the headlines. Soaring levels of debt have led to the collapse of clubs such as Bury and Macclesfield, an experience shared by so many fans in communities up and down the country devastated by the demise of their beloved clubs. The debt problem is getting worse: premier league clubs have reported staggering losses of over £1.2 billion over the past 12 months alone, and the figures in the championship are looking just as shocking, with Leicester losing £90 million in 2022-23.

Fans of clubs such as Everton and Reading are sick of seeing them mismanaged through the reckless decision making of irresponsible owners. Just last week, the House heard of the pain of Torquay United fans, whose club has entered into administration following years of flawed business plans. Unreliable owners who do not have the interests of their club or its fans at heart, and are prepared to play fast and loose with their finances and their future, should be held accountable. As a lifelong Pompey fan, I feel their pain: after a series of disastrous owners, it took a fan-led buy-out in 2012 to save our club, demonstrating that our fans were literally prepared to pay up in order to stay up—or, in fact, to stay afloat—such was their dedication and commitment.

The failure of English football’s wealthiest clubs, those in the premier league, to agree a financial distribution deal is putting the fabric of our national game at risk. This situation has dragged on for far too long, and it has been especially disappointing to see the Premier League spending time and money lobbying MPs and peers against the Bill, rather than lobbying its clubs to secure a fair deal for English football. Decisions are repeatedly being made in the interests of the top of the football pyramid without a thought for the vital ecosystem that generates its lifeblood. Scrapping FA cup replays may be welcome in some quarters, but once again it is a characteristically messy number, denying lower-league sides that all-important financial boost. We need a change of tactics, so I know that fans across the country will welcome these plans to introduce a regulator and attempt to bring some stability to the game.

Of course, that is not to say that the new independent regulator will be the silver bullet that the Government have sometimes presented it as. The problems faced by football are extensive and complex, and there are still some areas where I would like to see more clarification and further work as the Bill progresses. I will talk through a couple of those now.

Widening financial distribution across the football pyramid will be the ultimate test of the Bill. Last year, our Committee urged the Premier League and the EFL to urgently agree a new deal to redistribute a higher proportion of revenue throughout the football pyramid. We recommended that in the absence of such a deal, the Government should expedite their plans to establish a regulator with the power to mandate a solution. I am pleased to see that the Bill aims to address this issue by giving the independent regulator the backstop power to intervene in the distribution of broadcast revenue, but that power is subject to certain thresholds being met, and it excludes the controversial parachute payments within the pot that we have already heard about. We need reassurance that the regulator has the teeth to trigger its own backstop powers and impose a fair settlement, when and where it deems necessary and without any undue delay. We also need an indication from the Government of how the regulator will curb the reckless spending of clubs trying to keep up with those in receipt of parachute payments.

Enhanced financial regulation across the football pyramid is really welcome. It will improve the resilience of clubs, encourage sensible financial decisions and ensure that risks are mitigated. However, given that the regulator will not oversee regulations such as the Premier League profitability and sustainability rules or the squad cost controls that are set to replace those rules, the Government need to provide clarity on how both systems will work alongside each other and reassurance as to why they deemed it unsuitable for the regulator to take on this responsibility.

When it comes to owners, I am really pleased to see that the regulator will establish a new, strengthened owners and directors test to ensure that a club’s custodians are suitable for the role. I welcome the fact that the Bill confers enforcement powers on the independent regulator to protect clubs from any harm that an irresponsible owner or officer might cause and to be able to remove them, but we need further detail on what precisely will happen to those clubs that have an unsuitable owner removed. We need to understand how the regulator would remove another potential Dai Yongge from Reading without compromising the future of the club and ultimately punishing its fans. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain how the Bill will safeguard clubs that find themselves in the position of having no owner, no financial safety net to keep them going and potentially no prospective buyers on the horizon.

We have already heard from Members that football is nothing without its fans, and I am pleased to see the Bill placing fan engagement requirements on the clubs as well as requiring them to comply with heritage protections and to seek approval for the sale or relocation of their home ground. But the Bill does not go quite so far as requiring fans to have a golden share, as recommended in the excellent fan-led review led by my hon. Friend—and real-life friend—the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Dame Tracey Crouch). At this point, it would be terribly remiss of me not to add my congratulations to her and the whole team who have put an enormous amount of brilliant work into getting the Bill to this stage. As the Bill progresses, I want to be sure that it provides a way for fans to share their concerns about their club with the regulator and to know that they will not be dismissed. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has agreed to hold a pre-appointment hearing with the chair of the independent regulator once the Government have a preferred candidate, and I expect that this will be one of the first questions we will be asking them.

Ultimately, there are two main questions that I want to see answered by this legislation. First, does it deliver for football and its fans? Secondly, to what extent will it prevent some of the distressing times that clubs like Reading are currently undergoing? There is more to be done on the Bill—and indeed the guidance that goes alongside it—to ensure that it fully meets those aims. We cannot overlook the huge economic value, the sense of community cohesion, and the moments of both local and national pride that football gives us; nor can we ignore the vital importance of a football pyramid that delivers at every single level. I know that some, including the Premier League, have concerns about unintended consequences, so the Select Committee has written to them to give them a chance to set out exactly what they would change—because there have been plenty of chances for the sceptics to prove that this Bill is not needed. Given that this is one of the biggest overhauls in the history of English football, we must do it right.

I congratulate Ministers, particularly the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), on getting the Bill to this stage. I look forward to his responses and to hearing what more can be done to secure a clear win—and, just like Pompey, can we do it well before the end of the season?

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I am putting in place a seven-minute time limit to ensure that everybody gets as equal a chance to speak as possible.

Budget Resolutions

Rosie Winterton Excerpts
Monday 11th March 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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My right hon. Friend knows that we want to reduce taxes on working people. It is not right that they have double taxation. He will also know about the importance of protecting pensioners, which is why, throughout our time in government, we have protected them, with one of the key ways of doing that being through the triple lock.

I will highlight the progress made on the five priorities that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister set out some time ago. Debt is falling in line with our fiscal rules, inflation has halved and growth is a full 1.5 percentage points higher than predicted. That has only been possible because of the decisions taken by this Government, such as putting an average of £900 back into the pockets of 27 million workers in the space of four months. There is further to go, and the Budget will help us get there, creating more success stories like our creative industries across our economy and across the entire United Kingdom.

While the Labour party snipes aimlessly and endlessly from the sidelines, we are targeting funding where it is needed most. While the Labour party talks the economy and indeed the rest of the country down, we are backing working families and British businesses with tax cuts and tax breaks. While the Labour party U-turns on its U-turns, we are putting our economy on track for new jobs, new growth and new investment. The Conservative Government have a plan, and that plan is working. I commend the Budget to the House.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the shadow Health and Social Care Secretary.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Before I call the first speaker from the Back Benches, I inform the House that we have 32 speakers in this debate, so I advise Members to confine their speeches to six or seven minutes, certainly to start with. That would be extremely helpful in ensuring that we get everyone in. I call Sir Bill Wiggin.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. As I said before, I would prefer not to impose a time limit. If colleagues can confine their remarks to seven minutes, that would be terrifically helpful.

[Relevant documents: Thirteenth Report of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of Session 2022-23, Draft Media Bill: Final Report, HC 1807, and the Government response, Session 2023-24, HC 115; Twelfth Report of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of Session 2022-23, Draft Media Bill: Radio Measures, HC 1287, and the Government response, Session 2023-24, HC 115; Fifth Report of the Welsh Affairs Committee of Session 2022-23, Broadcasting in Wales, HC 620, and the Government response, Session 2023-24, HC 489.]
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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We were going to begin with new clause 1, but Hywel Williams is not here, so I instead call George Eustice to move new clause 3.

New Clause 3

Consultation on section 50

“(1) Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must publish a call for evidence seeking views on alternative incentives to encourage publishers or regulators to seek recognition under the terms of the Royal Charter for the Self-Regulation of the Press.

(2) The Secretary of State must lay before both Houses of Parliament a report setting out the Government’s formal response to evidence submitted in response to the call for evidence required by subsection (1).

(3) The Secretary of State may not make an order under section 55(3)(ga) bringing any part of section 50 into force until the report specified in subsection (2) has been laid before both Houses of Parliament.”—(George Eustice.)

See explanatory statement to Amendment 3.

Brought up, and read the First time.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) (Con)
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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 1—Evaluation of nations-based production

“(1) The Communications Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 286 (regional programme-making for Channels 3 and 5)—

(a) in subsection (1)(d), at end insert “except where the company is a new start-up and has registered itself as being primarily based in that nation”;

(b) after subsection (1)(d) insert—

“(e) Ofcom must require a broadcaster listing a production as being based in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales to demonstrate prior to production that a production company has—

(i) a substantial base (consisting of a specified number of staff) within the nation;

(ii) a commitment to remain within the nation for a specified amount of time;

(iii) had a presence within the nation for at least 36 months.”;

(c) in subsection (3)(d), at end insert “except where the company is a new start-up and has registered itself as being primarily based in that nation.”;

(d) after subsection (3)(d) insert—

“(e) Ofcom must require a broadcaster listing a production as being based in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales to demonstrate prior to production that a production company has—

(i) a substantial base (consisting of a specified number of staff) within the nation;

(ii) a commitment to remain within the nation for a specified amount of time;

(iii) had a presence within the nation for at least 36 months.”

(3) In section 288 (Regional programme-making for Channel 4)—

(a) in subsection (1)(d), at end insert “except where the company is a new start-up and has registered itself as being primarily based in that nation.”;

(b) after subsection (1)(d) insert—

“(e) Ofcom must require a broadcaster listing a production as being based in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales to demonstrate prior to production that a production company has—

(i) a substantial base (consisting of a specified number of staff) within the nation;

(ii) a commitment to remain within the nation for a specified amount of time;

(iii) had a presence within the nation specified for at least 36 months.”.”

New clause 4—OFCOM review of on-demand programme service regulation measures—

“(1) As soon as practicable after Chapter 2 of this Act comes into force, OFCOM must carry out a review of its on-demand programme service regulation measures.

(2) This review must take account of—

(a) the size, and

(b) the turnover

of the services to which these regulations apply and assess whether the current application of the regulations is the most effective means to achieve the policy goals of this Chapter.

(3) In conducting the review described in subsection (2), OFCOM must consult with relevant stakeholders, including public service broadcasters, on-demand programme service providers and any other stakeholders as appropriate.”

This would require OFCOM to conduct a review of the Bill’s new on-demand regulatory code. The review must take account of the sizes and turnovers of the regulated services, and assess whether the current regulatory approach is effective in achieving the policy goals of the Bill. The review would have to be conducted in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

New clause 6—Age rating standards—

“Where Tier 1 providers use an age rating or other classification system to comply with the duties imposed on them by or under this Act for the protection of audiences from harm, they must—

(a) apply the age rating or classification system used by the video works authority based on their classification guidelines; or

(b) apply an age rating or classification system that is judged by OFCOM to be—

(i) based on a transparent set of appropriate standards;

(ii) applied consistently across content; and

(iii) informed by regular consultation with the UK public.”

This new clause ensures that, where age ratings are used by Video on Demand platforms, those ratings are the same as the ones used by the British Board of Film Classification or meet equivalent standards of rigour, transparency, and objectivity.

New clause 7—Adequate on-demand coverage to be available—

“After section 101 of the Broadcasting Act 1996, insert—

“101ZA Provision of adequate on-demand coverage

(1) The purpose of this section is to secure, in relation to a listed event, that if any person makes available on-demand coverage of the whole or any part of that event, adequate on-demand coverage is made available widely and free of charge to members of the public in the United Kingdom, whether by that person or another person.

(2) In this Part, in relation to a listed event or part of such an event, “on-demand coverage” means audiovisual content consisting of coverage of, or excerpts from, that event (or a combination of those), where—

(a) a person makes a range of such content available to members of the public, whether through a relevant service or otherwise;

(b) selections from that range can be made by the user and viewed at a time chosen by the user (even if it may be viewed only within a period specified by the person making it available);

(c) the selected content is received by the user by means of the internet; and

(d) the content otherwise meets any criteria or requirements specified (either generally or in relation to particular listed events) by regulations under section 104ZA;

and “on-demand rights” means rights to make on-demand coverage available for access by members of the public in the United Kingdom.

(3) Any contract entered into on or after the day on which section [Adequate on-demand coverage to be available] of the Media Act 2024 comes into force under which a person acquires on-demand rights is void so far as it purports—

(a) in relation to the whole or any part of the event, or

(b) in relation to access by means of the internet, in the United Kingdom,

to grant those rights exclusively.

(4) For the purposes of this section, on-demand rights are granted exclusively if the person granting them—

(a) has not granted any such right in respect of the whole or, as the case may be, that part of the event to more than one person, and

(b) is precluded by the terms of the contract from doing so.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (4)(a), rights are not to be treated as having been granted to more than one person where the only persons to whom such rights have been granted are connected with each other.

(6) No person may provide on-demand coverage of a listed event unless authorised to do so under subsection (7), (8) or (9), even if that person is authorised to include live coverage of that event in a relevant service by subsection (2), (3) or (4) of section 101.

(7) The provision of on-demand coverage of a listed event is authorised by this subsection if—

(a) on-demand rights have been acquired by the provider of a relevant service falling within section 98(1)(a);

(b) that relevant service includes live coverage of that event; and

(c) the on-demand coverage provided that provider—

(i) constitutes adequate on-demand coverage of the event, and

(ii) may be accessed free of charge.

(8) The provision of on-demand coverage of a listed event is authorised by this subsection if—

(a) on-demand rights have been acquired by one or more persons;

(b) those persons are not connected with each other;

(c) the on-demand coverage provided by at least one of those persons—

(i) constitutes adequate on-demand coverage of the event, and

(ii) may be accessed free of charge;

and

(d) the person or persons who have acquired rights to provide the adequate on-demand coverage satisfy the requirements in relation to that coverage of any regulations made under section 104ZA for the purposes of this paragraph.

(9) The provision of on-demand coverage of a listed event is authorised by this subsection if OFCOM have consented in advance to such provision.

(10) OFCOM may revoke any consent given by them under subsection (9).

(11) The code drawn up by OFCOM under section 104 shall include guidance on the matters which they will take into account in determining whether to give or revoke their consent for the purposes of subsection (9).

(12) Regulations under section 104ZA (regulations about coverage of listed events) may include provision—

(a) specifying (either generally or in relation to particular listed events) any criteria or requirements that content must meet in order to be regarded as on-demand coverage for the purposes of subsection (2)(d);

(b) for determining for the purposes of this section what (whether generally or in relation to particular circumstances) is to be taken to represent the provision of adequate on-demand coverage of an event for the purposes of subsection (8)(d).

(13) Failure to comply with subsection (6) shall not affect the validity of any contract.

(14) Subsection (6) shall not have effect where the person providing the on-demand coverage is exercising on-demand rights acquired before the commencement of this section.

(15) In this section, “on-demand coverage” and “adequate on-demand coverage” are to be construed in accordance with regulations under section 104ZA.

(16) For the purposes of sections 104A (provision of information) and 104B (penalties for failure to provide information), any person making available, or wishing to make available, on-demand coverage of the whole or any part of any listed event shall be treated as a person who is within subsection (5) of section 104A.””

This new clause would secure that, where possible, adequate on-demand coverage of listed events, such as clips and excerpts, is made available free of charge to audiences in the United Kingdom.

New clause 8—Protection of digital terrestrial television—

“(1) The Secretary of State shall ensure that—

(a) the licensed public service channels continue to be broadcast via digital terrestrial television to as many of their intended audience as is reasonably practicable; and

(b) a sufficient number of digital terrestrial television multiplex licences are issued to deliver the licensed public service channels via digital terrestrial television and support a diverse range of commercial digital terrestrial television channels.

(2) OFCOM shall reserve sufficient frequencies for television broadcasting services accordingly.”

This new clause would place a responsibility on the Secretary of State to ensure that public service television channels continue to be broadcast via digital terrestrial television (DTT) and that sufficient licences are issued to keep the platform viable. It would also require Ofcom to make spectrum available accordingly.

New clause 9—Review of children’s access to public service broadcast content—

“Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must prepare and publish a report on how to ensure that children have access to public service broadcast content.”

This new clause would require a review of how to ensure children have access to public service content, given their viewing habits.

New clause 10—Digital rights to listed events—

“(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend the Broadcasting Act 1996 to make provision for coverage of listed events which is not live coverage.

(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”

New clause 11—Delivery of public service content on relevant television services—

“After section 264A of the Communications Act 2003, insert—

“264B Delivery of public service content on relevant television services

(1) OFCOM must monitor the extent to which the public service remit for television in the United Kingdom is met in respect of relevant television services.

(2) If OFCOM considers that the public service remit for television in the United Kingdom is not being met in respect of such services, it may set whatever programming quotas it considers necessary to ensure that the remit is met.

(3) For the purposes of this section, “relevant television services” means—

(a) the television broadcasting services provided by the BBC;

(b) the television programme services that are public services of the Welsh Authority (within the meaning of section 207);

(c) every Channel 3 service;

(d) Channel 4;

(e) Channel 5.””

This new clause would give OFCOM powers to measure the delivery of public service content on the linear services of the public service broadcasters, and set quotas if it considered the current level to be unsatisfactory.

New clause 12—Regulation of selection services for on demand and online-only content—

“(1) Within three months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must by regulations provide for the regulation of selection services for on demand and online-only content equivalent to the regulation of radio selection services provided for by section 48 and Schedule 9 of this Act.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may amend primary legislation.”

New clause 13—Gaelic language service—

“The Secretary of State must, within six months of the passage of this Act, review whether a Gaelic language service should be given a public service broadcast remit.”

New clause 14—Age Classifications—

“When considering the adequacy of age ratings, OFCOM must assess whether any age ratings used by providers are—

(a) widely recognised by the UK public;

(b) underpinned by a transparent set of standards;

(c) informed by regular consultation with the UK public.”

New clause 15—Establishing a Broadcasting and Communications Authority for Wales—

“(1) A Broadcasting and Communications Authority for Wales (“the Authority”) is established.

(2) The Authority must perform the following functions—

(a) support for the broadcasting and media sectors serving audiences in Wales;

(b) oversight and accountability for public service broadcasting in Wales;

(c) facilitation and development of the production of content by broadcaster and media outlets in Wales;

(d) promotion and preservation of the Welsh language, identity and culture in broadcasting and media output;

(e) support for and development of English language content made in Wales and ensuring that it is relevant to Welsh audiences; and

(f) any functions the Secretary of State considers necessary to support further devolution of broadcasting policy to the Welsh Government.

(3) In performing the functions under subsection 2 the Authority must have regard to—

(a) public interest journalism;

(b) content for children and young people; and

(c) sport content and national events.

(4) In performing the duties under subsection (2) in relation to broadcasting and media matters in Wales, the Authority must consult—

(a) relevant Ministers in the Welsh Government;

(b) Members of the Senedd; and

(c) members of the public living in Wales.

(5) Section 1 comes into force at the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(6) In preparation for the establishment of the Authority a shadow authority may be established in line with the functions set out in subsection 2 after the passing of this Act.

(7) The Secretary of State must by regulations make provision for the appointment of officers to the Authority.”

This new clause creates a new independent Welsh Broadcasting and Communications Authority with responsibility and oversight for broadcasting and media matters in Wales to help reflect and meet the needs of Welsh audiences.

New clause 16—Listed Events—

“(1) The Broadcasting Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 97 (as amended by section 299 of the Communications Act 2003), after subsection (1B) insert—

“(1A) The following events must be included in Group A of the list drawn up under subsection (1)—

(a) the Olympic Games;

(b) the Paralympic Games;

(c) the FIFA World Cup Finals Tournament;

(d) the FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals Tournament;

(e) the European Football Championship Finals Tournament;

(f) the European Women’s Football Championship Finals Tournament;

(g) the FA Cup Final;

(h) the Scottish FA Cup Final;

(i) the Grand National;

(j) the Wimbledon Tennis Finals;

(k) the Rugby Union World Cup Final;

(l) Six Nations Rugby Tournament Matches Involving Home Countries;

(m) the Derby;

(n) the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final;

(o) any match involving the national teams of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England pertaining to qualification for the events listed in paragraphs (c), (d), (e) and (f).””

This new clause would make it compulsory for the Secretary of State to place the list of sporting events in Group A of listed sporting events, ensuring they are available on free to air television in their entirety. The events consist of all current Group A events plus the home nations World Cup and Euro qualifiers.

New clause 17—Consultation on listing of events—

“(1) The Broadcasting Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 97(2), after paragraph (b), insert—

“(ba) Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Media Service),”

(3) In section 104(4), after paragraph (b), insert—

“(ba) Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Media Service),””

This new clause would add Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Media Service) to the list of organisations which must be consulted when the Secretary of State is drafting or amending listed events and Ofcom is drawing up its related code of guidance.

New clause 18—Listed Events Fund—

“(1) The Broadcasting Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 104ZA insert—

“104ZB Financial matters arising from the listing of events: the Listed Events Fund

(1) The Secretary of State shall establish a fund (the “Listed Events Fund”) with the purpose of minimising the consequential financial impact of the listing of events on sporting governing bodies who would otherwise suffer egregious financial distress.

(2) Payments from the fund shall be limited to governing bodies and other sporting rights holders who maintain their registered office in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England and whose primary geographic area of responsibility lies within one of these territories.

(3) The Secretary of State, following the revision of the listing of events in Group A, shall invite governing bodies and other organisations who could reasonably assess their turnover or income as dropping as a result of an event being listed in Group A (and who qualify under the provisions of subsection (2) of this section) to apply to him for payment from the fund.

(4) No organisation with a reported turnover of greater than £50 million per annum for the financial year in which any subvention may be paid shall be entitled to payment from the fund.

(5) The amount laid down in subsection (4) may be varied by the Secretary of State on an annual basis, but may not increase by a rate greater than that of the Retail Price Index as measured at any point in the three months previous to any proposed variation.””

This new clause would provide a fund under the auspices of the Secretary of State to be paid to governing bodies or other broadcasting rights holders who may experience financial detriment as a result of listing under Group A.

New clause 19—Diversity in the workforce of the public service broadcasters—

“(1) OFCOM must produce a report each year detailing diversity in the workforce of the public sector broadcasters (“PSBs”).

(2) The report under subsection (1) must include—

(a) a breakdown by protected characteristic of the numbers of people in the workforce of each PSB;

(b) the percentage of the workforce on and offscreen who have various protected characteristics as deemed relevant by OFCOM;

(c) if the percentages reported under paragraph (b) are not reflective of the population as a whole or on a regional basis, a statement from each broadcaster on how they intend to increase diversity in their organisation.

(3) OFCOM may request any information they require from the PSBs in order to compile the report under subsection (1).

(4) Provision of data to enable OFCOM to produce the report under subsection (1) is to be considered by OFCOM when it assesses the extent to which a PSB has fulfilled its public service broadcasting remit.”

This new clause would require OFCOM to produce an annual report on workforce diversity within the PSBs.

New clause 20—On-demand programme services—

“(1) OFCOM must report to the Secretary of State each year on the percentage of people who are watching on-demand services that do not fall under the definition of on-demand programme services in section 368A of the Communications Act.

(2) If OFCOM reports concern that the definition is not providing protection for public service broadcasters on on-demand services that are being widely accessed by the public—

(a) OFCOM must write to the Secretary of State, and

(b) the Secretary of State must make a written statement to Parliament on how the Secretary of State intends to remedy this matter.”

This new clause would require OFCOM and the Secretary of State to keep under review the adequacy of the definition of on-demand programme services in section 368A of the Communications Act 2003.

New clause 21—Delivery of public service content on relevant television services—

“After section 264A of the Communications Act 2003, insert—

“264B Delivery of public service content on relevant television services

(1) Ofcom must monitor the extent to which the public service remit for television in the United Kingdom is met in respect of relevant television services, including level of programming from a diverse range of genres including, among others, education, entertainment, music, arts science, sports matters of international significance, religion and specialist interests.

(2) If Ofcom considers that the public service remit for television in the United Kingdom is not being met in respect of such services, it may set whatever programming quotas it considers necessary to ensure that the remit is met.

(3) It is the duty of relevant television broadcasting services to prepare and publish a statement annually on their performance in the provision of public service content.

(4) For the purposes of this section, “relevant television services” means—

(a) the television broadcasting services provided by the BBC;

(b) the television programme services that are public services of the Welsh Authority (within the meaning of section 207);

(c) every Channel 3 service;

(d) Channel 4;

(e) Channel 5.””

This new clause would give Ofcom powers to measure the delivery of public service content on the linear services of the public service broadcasters, and set quotas if it considered the current level to be unsatisfactory.

New clause 22—Duty to report on workforce diversity and equality requirement

“(1) Public service broadcasters (“PSBs”) must prepare and publish a statement on a workforce diversity and equality strategy within the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(2) A workforce diversity and equality strategy must comprise a plan setting out how PSBs are taking appropriate steps towards improving diversity and equality within the workforce in the period covered by the plan, which must cover not more than three years.

(3) In particular, a workforce diversity and equality strategy must state a PSB’s objectives and priorities for the period it covers.

(4) A workforce diversity and equality strategy must include a summary and an evaluation of the activities and initiatives pursued or commissioned by a PSB in the exercise of its functions under subsection (1) in the period to which the strategy relates.

(5) Before the end of the period covered by a workforce diversity and equality strategy, PSBs must prepare and publish a strategy for a further period, ensuring that each successive strategy covers a period beginning immediately after the end of the last one.

(6) In preparing or revising a workforce diversity and equality strategy, a PSB must consult such persons as they consider appropriate.

(7) OFCOM must prepare and publish a report on workforce diversity and equality strategy statements produced by PSBs set out in subsection (1), in particular—

(a) summarising what actions a PSB is planning and taking in the exercise of its strategy under subsections (1) to (3);

(b) assessing what progress has been made towards achieving the objectives and priorities set out in a strategy in the relevant period.

(8) The first annual report by OFCOM on workforce diversity and equality is required to be published within a period of 18 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(9) OFCOM must prepare and publish subsequent reports on PSBs’ strategies and progress against them every three years thereafter.”

This new clause introduces a requirement for PSBs to publish objectives on the promotion of diversity and equality among the workforce and for Ofcom to monitor and report on PSB performance on meeting this requirement.

New clause 23—Duty to report on media literacy requirement—

“(1) Public service broadcasters (“PSBs”) must prepare and publish a statement on a media literacy strategy within the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(2) A media literacy strategy is a plan setting out how PSBs are taking appropriate steps towards improving levels of media literacy among audiences in the period covered by the plan, which must be not more than three years.

(3) In particular, a media literacy strategy must state a PSB’s objectives and priorities for the period it covers.

(4) A media literacy statement must include a summary and an evaluation of the activities and initiatives pursued or commissioned by the PSB in the exercise of their functions under section (1) in the period to which the report relates.

(5) Before the end of the period covered by a media literacy strategy, PSBs must prepare and publish a strategy for a further period, ensuring that each successive strategy covers a period beginning immediately after the end of the last one.

(6) In preparing or revising a media literacy strategy, a PSB must consult such persons as they consider appropriate.

(7) OFCOM must prepare and publish a report of the media literacy strategy statements set out in subsection (1), in particular—

(a) summarising what actions a PSB is planning and taking in the exercise of its strategy under subsections (1) to (3);

(b) assessing what progress has been made towards achieving the objectives and priorities set out in a strategy in the relevant period.

(8) The first annual report by OFCOM on media literacy is required to be published within a period of 18 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(9) OFCOM must prepare and publish subsequent report on PSBs’ strategies and progress against them every three years thereafter.”

This new clause introduces a requirement for PSBs to take appropriate steps in relation to improving levels of media literacy among their audiences and for Ofcom to monitor and report on PSB performance on meeting this requirement.

New clause 24—Duty to report on viewer and listener consultation requirements

“(1) Public service broadcasters (“PSBs”) must prepare and publish a viewer and listener consultation strategy (“consultation strategy”) within the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(2) A consultation strategy is a plan setting out how PSBs are taking appropriate steps towards improving levels of engagement with audiences in the period covered by the plan, which must be not more than three years.

(3) In particular, a consultation strategy must state a PSB’s objectives and priorities for the period it covers.

(4) A consultation strategy must include a summary and an evaluation of the activities and initiatives pursued or commissioned by the PSB in the exercise of their functions under section (1) in the period to which the report relates.

(5) Before the end of the period covered by an audience consultation strategy, PSBs must prepare and publish a strategy for a further period, ensuring that each successive strategy covers a period beginning immediately after the end of the last one.

(6) In preparing or revising a media literacy consultation strategy, PSBs must consult such persons as they consider appropriate.

(7) OFCOM must prepare and publish a report assessing PSBs’ consultation strategies, in particular—

(a) summarising what actions a PSB is planning and taking in the exercise of its strategy, and

(b) assessing what progress has been made towards achieving the objectives and priorities set out in a strategy in the relevant period.

(8) The first annual report by OFCOM on PSBs’ consultation strategies must be published within a period of 18 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(9) OFCOM must prepare and publish subsequent reports on PSBs’ strategies and progress against them every three years thereafter.”

This new clause introduces a requirement for PSBs to produce a strategy and objectives for increasing levels of consultation with user listeners and for Ofcom to monitor and report on PSB performance on meeting this requirement.

Amendment 81, in clause 1, page 2, line 38, at end insert—

“(iii) a sufficient quantity of audiovisual content so as to permit fulfilment of the public service remit for television in the Gaelic language as spoken in Scotland”.

This amendment would require OFCOM to report on whether a sufficient quantity of audiovisual content in Gaelic is televised to meet the public service remit for television.

Amendment 1, page 3, line 10, at end insert—

“(5A) In assessing the extent to which the requirements of subsection (5)(b)(i) have been met OFCOM must have particular regard to the importance of content recognising the culture and heritage of those parts of the United Kingdom recognised under the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.”

This amendment requires OFCOM to have regard to the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities when reporting on the fulfilment of the public service remit through audiovisual content by the public service broadcasters.

Amendment 86, page 3, line 13, leave out from “appropriate” to end and insert—

“level of programming from a diverse range of genres including, among others, education, entertainment, music, arts science, sports matters of international significance, religion and specialist interests.”

This amendment would add detailed description of the range of genres which Ofcom must report on whether the public service broadcasters have made available.

Government amendment 19.

Amendment 79, in clause 3, page 7, line 15, at end insert—

“(c) which is broadcast via UHF frequencies that can be received by a minimum of 98.5% of the population of the United Kingdom.”

This amendment amends the definition of public service for Channel 3 and Channel 5 to include an obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television, on the basis of the already existing licence requirements applying to PSB DTT multiplexes.

Amendment 80, page 7, line 32, at end insert—

“(d) which is broadcast via UHF frequencies that can be received by a minimum of 98.5% of the population of the United Kingdom.”

This amendments amends the definition of public service for Channel 4 to include a obligation to broadcast via digital terrestrial television, on the basis of the already existing licence requirements applying to PSB DTT multiplexes.

Amendment 82, in clause 8, page 9, line 29, at end insert—

“(c) a duration such as OFCOM considers appropriate of those independent productions are commissioned from smaller studios”.

This amendment would require OFCOM to require licensed public service channel regulatory conditions to include commissioning from smaller studios.

Amendment 83, page 9, line 29, at end insert—

“(1A) The regulatory regime for Channel 4 includes the conditions that OFCOM consider appropriate for securing that, in each year, not less than 35% per cent of Channel 4's total expenditure on qualifying audiovisual content is allocated to independent productions made by independent production companies with annual turnover not exceeding £25,000,000.

(1B) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend subsection (1A) by substituting a different figure for the annual turnover specified in that section.

(1C) Before making regulations under subsection (1B), the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) OFCOM,

(b) Channel 4, and

(c) independent production companies that are likely to be affected by the regulations.”

This amendment would require that at least 35% of Channel 4’s annual expenditure on qualifying audiovisual content be allocated to productions made by independent producers with annual revenues smaller than £25m. It also provides the Secretary of State the power to amend, following consultation, the revenue figure defining the production companies to which the requirement applies.

Amendment 84, page 10, line 15, before “commissioning” insert

““annual revenue” means the reported revenues published in the annual accounts of the respective independent production company, covering the most recently available period of 12 months;”.

This amendment would insert a definition for the purposes of Amendment 83.

Amendment 85, page 10, line 17, at end insert—

““independent production companies” has the same meaning as in the Broadcasting (Independent Productions) Order 1991;”.

This amendment would insert a definition for the purposes of Amendment 83.

Government amendments 20 to 40.

Amendment 88, in clause 25, page 30, line 30, at end insert—

“(4) On the date on which section 21 comes into force, the Secretary of State must revise the list maintained for the purposes of Part 4 of the Broadcasting Act 1996 so that it includes—

(a) at least one cricket test match each year between the months of May and September;

(b) at least one cricket One Day International match each year between the months of May and September;

(c) all other currently listed Group A events.

(5) The events listed under subsection (4) must be allocated to Group A.”

Amendment 5, in clause 28, page 41, line 10, leave out “an appropriate” and insert “a significant”.

This would require that designated internet programme services are given significant prominence within regulated television selection services.

Amendment 78, page 42, line 3, at end insert—

“(f) any local digital television programme service that OFCOM determines is willing and able to offer an internet programme service.”

This amendment includes local digital television services within the prominence framework for designated internet programme services where OFCOM determines a service is willing and able to offer such a service.

Amendment 87, page 42, line 21, leave out “an appropriate” and insert “a significant”.

This amendment would require a provider of regulated television selection to give significant prominence to designated internet programme services.

Government amendments 41 to 49.

Amendment 6, page 69, line 1, leave out clause 31.

This would retain section 295 of the Communications Act 2003, which restricts C4C’s involvement in programme-making.

Government amendments 50 and 51.

Amendment 18, in clause 38, page 79, line 25, at end insert—

“(4A) When considering the adequacy of age ratings, OFCOM must report on the extent to which any age ratings used by providers are—

(a) clear and well understood by consumers;

(b) underpinned by a published and transparent set of standards; and

(c) informed by regular and substantive consultation with the UK public.”

This amendment sets conditions to be used by OFCOM when reporting on the adequacy of the age ratings classification systems used by providers.

Government amendment 52.

Amendment 7, in clause 44, page 83, line 36, leave out subsection (3).

This amendment and Amendments 8 to 13 would broaden the scope of the requirements placed by the Bill on local radio broadcasting licences, so that the current scope of local material as news, information and other spoken material is retained.

Amendment 8, page 84, line 6, leave out “news and information” and insert

“news, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 9, page 84, line 23, leave out “news and information” and insert

“news, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 10, page 84, line 24, leave out “news and information” and insert

“news, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 11, in page 84, line 26, after “news” insert

“, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 12, page 84, line 34, after “news” insert

“, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Amendment 13, page 84, line 36, after “news” insert

“, information and other spoken material and music”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 7.

Government amendments 53 to 59.

Amendment 2, in clause 50, page 114, line 7, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—

“(2) Section 40(3) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 is omitted.”

This amendment would allow the Secretary of State the option in future of commencing subsection 2 of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Acts 2013.

Amendment 3, in clause 55, page 115, line 25, leave out “50” and insert “(Consultation on section 50)”.

This amendment, together with Amendment 4 and NC3, would require the Secretary of State to consult on alternative incentives to encourage publishers or regulators to seek recognition under the terms of the Royal Charter for the Self-Regulation of the Press, and to lay a report on the consultation before Parliament, before section 50 could be commenced.

Amendment 4, page 115, line 35, at end insert—

“(ga) section 50 (but see section (Consultation on section 50));”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 3.

Government amendments 60 to 74.

Amendment 17, in schedule 5, page 145, line 4, at end insert—

“(aa) persons designated by the Secretary of State as the responsible authority under Section 4(1) of the Video Recordings Act 1984;”.

This amendment ensures that the British Board of Film Classification is consulted by OFCOM when drawing up the Video on Demand codes.

Government amendment 75.

Amendment 14, page 146, line 34, leave out “40 per cent” and insert “80 per cent”.

This would require Tier 1 on-demand services to provide subtitling for 80% of their on-demand TV content from the second anniversary of the publication of the accessibility code.

Amendment 15, page 146, line 36, leave out “5 per cent” and insert “10 per cent”.

This would require Tier 1 on-demand services to provide audio-description for 10 per cent of their on-demand TV content from the second anniversary of the publication of the accessibility code.

Amendment 16, page 147, line 1, leave out “2.5 per cent” and insert “5 per cent”.

This would require Tier 1 on-demand services to provide sign language presentation or translation for 5 per cent of their on-demand TV content from the second anniversary of the publication of the accessibility code.

Government amendments 76 and 77.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
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There are a number of new clauses and amendments in my name that I wish to speak to, but principally among them I will speak to amendment 2, which relates to the repeal of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Acts 2013. With the will of the House, I will press the amendment to a Division later today, but first I will briefly address some of the other amendments.

Amendment 1 is not actually linked to the debate about section 40, or indeed the Leveson inquiry; it is about something very different. It simply states that Ofcom, when considering and assessing the public service remit, should also have regard to the framework convention on national minorities. That is because the current framework acknowledges the importance of languages in this country and their recognition under the framework convention on minority languages, but it omits the framework convention on national minorities. That is of particular importance to places such as Cornwall, Scotland and Wales, where the culture and identity goes beyond just language. I hope the Government will consider addressing this matter in the other place as the Bill progresses.

New clause 3 addresses the simple reality that although the Government have said that they intend to repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, Ministers have confirmed to me that the Government remain committed to the continued existence of the royal charter on self-regulation of the press. That royal charter was established by David Cameron when he was Prime Minister, in response to the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry. Conservative Members voted to put in place section 40 in order to create an incentive to join the royal charter. Given that the Government have said that they want to repeal section 40, which created that incentive, but that they remain absolutely committed to keeping the royal charter, surely they should at the very least have a call for evidence to examine what other possible incentives might encourage publishers to join that royal charter.

If the Government did not believe in the royal charter on self-regulation of the press, they would simply bring forward Orders in Council to disband the royal charter, as is provided for under article 10 of the charter. The Government do not want to do that, so if they remain committed to the royal charter, let us at least explore those options. They could include giving publishers access to arbitration so that they can get a fairer share of the advertising revenue for the news content they produce. That remains an open problem; some Government legislation seeks to address it, but it could go further.

I wish to focus principally on amendment 2, since that is the one I intend to press to a Division. The amendment would simply put in place a more precise cut to deliver the Government’s objectives. Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 had two parts. The first part—subsection (2)—created an incentive for publishers to join because it gave them protection against those with deep pockets. There was a carrot and a stick in section 40. The carrot was that if, for the sake of argument, a Russian oligarch threatened a publisher and said, “We’re going to get Carter-Ruck to write expensive letters to you. We will see you in court if you publish this,” that publisher would have had protection because they would have been able to say to the rich and powerful, “We have confidence in our story and are going to run it, and if you don’t like the story, we will see you in arbitration; we won’t see you in court. If you insist on taking us to court and bypassing that arbitration, you will pay the publisher’s costs as well as your own.”

That was the carrot—the bit that the press never objected to. No one ever raised an objection to that. But there was also a stick—subsection (3) of section 40. The stick basically said that publishers who do not join a recognised regulator have more cost exposure to ordinary citizens who have had their lives and privacy violated and have no redress other than to bring legal action. The press never objected to the carrot; they only ever objected to the stick. Because they are a glass-half-empty type of industry, they of course tended to focus on the bit they did not like rather than the bit they did like, and they lobbied furiously to have that part of section 40 removed.

Then we come to the 2017 Conservative manifesto—let us be honest: it was not the best manifesto the party has ever drafted. Probably due to a drafting error, that manifesto pledged not just to remove subsection (3) of subsection 40, which was all that was required and which would have delivered the spirit of that manifesto commitment, but committed to remove the entirety of section 40, which was completely unnecessary.

Amendment 2 would remove the stick but retain the carrot. It would remove subsection (3) of section 40. In that, it would deliver everything the press have ever wanted, and therefore also satisfy the Government’s intentions.

--- Later in debate ---
There are other amendments that I welcome and support, particularly new clauses 5 and 7, as they extend the variety of and the commitment to public service broadcasting and the content that viewers would want to see.
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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For information, I intend to call those who have tabled amendments before other Members.

I call Sir John Whittingdale.

John Whittingdale Portrait Sir John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con)
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You are absolutely right, Madam Deputy Speaker; I have an amendment that I would like to speak to. It might be slightly unusual for the person who was the Minister taking the Bill through Committee then to seek to amend the Bill on Report, but I am sure it is not unprecedented, and I hope my amendment is nevertheless helpful to the Government. It is certainly my intention that it should be.

I have taken the Bill through Committee, and it has already been subject to a lot of scrutiny by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in this House and in the other place, and with the publication of a draft Bill. I am therefore slightly surprised to see the number of Government amendments that have been tabled. Most are relatively minor and technical, and I welcome the measure that would correct the anomaly around independent national radio, requiring it to continue to broadcast on AM, even though fewer and fewer people are now accessing radio by those means. It is right to remove that anomaly.

Amendment 78 addresses local television, which was the invention of my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt). Although it has had a somewhat chequered history, it is successful in a number of areas across the country, particularly outside London. Rightly, the Government have consulted recently on whether they believe there is a long-term future for local TV, and I am optimistic they will conclude that they would like it to continue. The Bill will ensure that those broadcasters that the Government regard as making an important contribution should continue to thrive in a different media landscape. That is the purpose of the prominence provisions, which safeguard public service broadcasters to ensure that whatever means viewer choose to access television, they can find those public service broadcasters easily. Local television is not currently included on the list of channels that should have due prominence. As we move forward into an age when more and more people rely on internet protocol television to access channels, it will become increasingly hard for them if local TV is not obviously available on IPTV sets.

I have a Sky Glass television, which is an IPTV set, and at the moment I cannot get local television on it at all. One reason for that—and the reason the Government have previously given for not including local TV on the list of channels to be given prominence—is the absence of an app to deliver local TV. When I was filling in for the Minister over the past few months I had a meeting with local TV and was told that an app will be forthcoming quite soon that will allow local television to be received by IPTV. The Government suggested in a letter to my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) that they see a difficulty with that, and that because there are a large number of local television channels it would be difficult to give all of them individual prominence. However, I am assured by local television that they intend to come forward with a single app, which will be available on a number of major platforms and ensure that a specifically chosen geographical location in the country will receive the specific local TV channel that is appropriate for that area. We are only talking about one app. The Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said in his letter that the Government will continue to monitor the situation and consider increasing the availability of local content.

As we know, media Bills do not come along every day, and this is our single opportunity to update the law covering the range of media services. It is likely that there will not be another opportunity for some considerable time. My amendment would allow Ofcom, at a future date, to recommend the inclusion of a local TV app, as and when it emerges, in the prominence regime. It would ensure that the Bill future-proofs the regime so that it can be amended in such a way. I hope the Government will consider adopting that measure. I understand it is unlikely that they will accept my amendment, but I ask the Minister whether she will continue to look at this issue and, if the Government believe it is appropriate, consider tabling an amendment to that effect in the House of Lords.

On new clause 3, regarding the abolition of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, I was slightly surprised to learn from my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) that the inclusion of a firm pledge to repeal section 40, which was not just in the 2017 Conservative manifesto but repeated in that of 2019, was a drafting error. It did not strike me at the time that either the initial pledge or the second one were drafting errors.

--- Later in debate ---
Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone
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I thank the right hon. Member for her intervention.

Let me move on to the subject of Channel 4 and the removal of the restriction on in-house production. I have concerns about that change to Channel 4’s model, which has worked extremely well for a long time, although the previous Secretary of State was not so keen on its existence—or, at least, its future. Channel 4 has historically supported the independent production sector throughout the UK, in places such as my constituency in the far north of Scotland, but there are concerns that allowing it to create its own content could destabilise the sector. Given the Government’s track record on Channel 4, my ultimate fear is that this could be used as a stick with which to beat the channel, although I hope that does not happen. That being said, Channel 4 and the independent production sector are integral to each other, which is why I am glad to see the channel’s qualifying independent commitment to the sector increased to 40%, and to hear that any changes are likely to be very gradual, allowing the market to adjust accordingly. That can only be a good thing.

I come to the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) on listed events. The Government must take his proposal forward, so that major sporting events such as the Olympics, the Euros, Wimbledon and the World cup remain free to air in their entirety. In an increasingly digital-first world, digital rights must be included in the listed events regime. Let me turn to a subject that is close to my heart. Earlier this week, Ben Stokes said that England’s test win over India was his “greatest triumph” since he had become England’s captain. I think we can all take pleasure in that, regardless of which of the four corners of the United Kingdom we inhabit. I acknowledge the nod from my colleague on the Scottish National party Benches, the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands), for which I thank him courteously. I feel that this sort of shared cultural moment should be available for everyone to watch on free-to-air television. My amendment would enable people to see a cricket test and a one-day international on free-to-air TV each summer, and I hope that Members will strongly consider supporting it.

On the subject of local radio—something that I have mentioned in the past, and was beaten up about when I was a councillor long ago—I tabled amendments 7 to 13 to broaden the scope of the requirements in local radio broadcasting licences, so that the current scope of “local material” as

“news, information and other spoken material and music”

is retained. If only I could have heard myself say those words all those years ago! I can see the good that it does. It would not be right for the BBC to be left as sole provider of local speech radio. On a similar point, I welcome part 6 of the Bill, which safeguards the future of the industry with relation to voice-activated smart devices.

Local radio is integral to upholding democracy—a point made many times by many of us in this place. It provides trusted news and information, particularly during an emergency, as we saw during covid, and also provides entertainment. That is especially important to my constituents, who, as may be imagined, often face long drives across very large rural areas.

New clause 3 and amendments 2 to 4 relate to section 40 and our press, a subject already mentioned by a number of Members today. Ten years ago, all the parties made commitments to the victims of press abuse that we would introduce the system of regulation recommended in the Leveson report to protect the public from press wrongdoing. We in this country benefit from a vibrant and rich media, as was pointed out in an urgent question earlier today, but whereas our broadcasting media are the envy of the world, our print media languish at the bottom of international league tables when it comes to public trust and confidence. However, the Government now seek to repeal section 40, although they have no plans to replace it with any alternative mechanism of independent and impartial regulation. That not only leaves local and independent newspapers unable to defend themselves against expensive litigation in the form of strategic lawsuits against public participation, but makes it harder for a normal person to take legal action against a large publisher. As they say, those with the deepest pockets win.

These amendments offer two ways forward. New clause 3 and amendments 3 and 4 would permit the repeal of section 40, but not before there has been a consultation on alternative incentives for the Leveson system. Amendment 2 would repeal the part of section 40 that would disadvantage unregulated newspapers, but keep the part that protects local independent titles that have done the right thing and signed up to regulation. Under either of those amendments, national newspapers would face no detriment at all for their potentially bad behaviour—there is no free speech reason to object to them—but they allow us to show our support for the victims of press abuse and for the underlying principles of independent regulation.

Many sensible amendments have been tabled to this Bill, and I am glad that the majority of us in the House and, indeed, the industry are singing from the same hymn sheet. The world and the way in which our media operate have changed beyond recognition since the Communications Act 2003, and I and my party will be very pleased to watch this Bill make its way swiftly through both Houses, so that our legislation at last reflects the world we live in today. I close by paying tribute to Members for the great efforts that have been made on all sides of this House to make sure that this legislation is fit for purpose.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) for previewing the suggestion that time-shifted excerpts from listed events be available through public service broadcasters. I regret that test matches are not presently listed events, because I think that this country would have wanted to see the remarkable parts of the test match in India this week.

Some people may have only read press descriptions of Ben Stokes doing a backhanded flip to the wicket. That can be well described by people such as Neville Cardus and his successors, but it is even better to watch it in real life.

I believe that the number of listed events should be expanded. However, as the BBC and others have reminded us, the number of people watching events on the other side of the world at midnight or four in the morning might be 400,000, whereas those who would want to watch those events the next day might be 4 million or 14 million.

I believe that the new clause should be accepted, and I hope that the Minister will say some comforting words. Like many others, I do not propose to push my new clause to a Division today, but I do hope that the Government will respond by tabling an amendment or a new clause in the House of Lords that has the same effect. I could read out my full briefing, but the point has been well made by the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, and may be made by others.

What is the reason for embracing the future? It is not just about linear television; there is the opportunity for other rights. So many rights are bought by commercial businesses outside this country. What do they care about what happens in one part of the world broadcasting framework? We must have a requirement to stop those who think they can make money by making most people not watch key events, and making those who do watch pay a lot. People should be able to watch coverage on ordinary public service broadcasting.

My belief is that, for major events, the competition between the public service broadcasters will be sufficient to ensure a fair return for those who buy the rights. I do not believe in having an unrestricted auction, so that people can buy rights that will exclude most people in the country from watching sporting events of great importance. There have been examples of rights holders—Sky has done this well—making an event available on normal public service broadcasting, as well as on their own service, when one of our national teams has got into a final. I pay tribute to Sky for doing that.

I want to follow up on the words of the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), who talked about genres in public service broadcasting. I thought I would table an amendment or a new clause that does what he argued for. I believe that Ofcom should have an explicit duty to make sure that public service broadcasters are held to account and explain how they are meeting the requirements for the various parts of public service broadcasting. Public service broadcasting can be very interesting and fully commercial; a large number of people may want to watch it, and it may be very popular, but not necessarily. Religion, science and many other areas listed in the right hon. Member’s amendment 86 are important.

I say to the Government: pay attention to what he has said, look to Colin Browne for what viewers and listeners have said, and accept the amendment, so that the requirements are explicit, and the responses by the public service broadcasters are open.

I believe that we can make a success of this Bill. I know that broadcasting regulation is normally about 10 years behind the technology, and I remember that about 30 years ago, David Mellor had to change a virtually complete Bill on Report because so much had changed between the Bill being drafted and its Third Reading in the House of Commons. I believe that we can make a major change, and I can sum this up to the Government in words that someone has offered me, which are absolutely right:

“Don’t let this opportunity pass by. The time to act is now. Once these moments go behind a paywall, that’s the final whistle.”

Let us make all major events available to all people, at least in excerpts, so that they can watch them in daylight.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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I refer hon. and right hon. Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I thank all colleagues, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) and for Eltham (Clive Efford), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), for their service on the Public Bill Committee and for doing really diligent and careful work.

In general, my colleagues on the Labour Benches and I are supportive of this Bill. It has been too long in the making, and the delays have held back the UK’s world-leading public service broadcasters. They have also affected the productivity of the creative industries as a whole, and the public service broadcast sector is such a large and important part of the creative industries and their commissioning. The last time broad changes were enacted for our public service broadcasters was in 2003. I think we can all agree that the world is now a very different place, but better late than never. Broadly speaking, I believe this is a good Bill, and we support it.

Our public service broadcasters are a fundamental part of British cultural life. If we did not have them, we would want to invent them, and this Bill gives them and the wider broadcasting industry the tools they need to survive in the modern world. The Bill contains crucial measures to ensure that UK broadcasters can thrive in a digital age by protecting radio services when they are accessed on smart speakers, and by ensuring the fair prominence of public service broadcasters on smart TVs. I will return to the question of prominence shortly.

However, the Bill does not take full advantage of the opportunity it creates to shape the broadcasting industry for the next decade. Although we will not seek to disrupt or delay the passage of the Bill, there are areas where we believe it can and should be strengthened and improved. I hope the Minister will listen to our suggestions in the new clauses and amendments standing in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East.

New clause 9 concerns children’s television. For many children and young people, public service broadcasting is an important part of how they learn and in particular how they learn to understand the world—it is a central part of how their curiosity is ignited. The Bill as drafted fails to recognise that importance by neglecting to try to understand how the viewing habits of children and young people are changing. Provision for children by public service broadcasters is under threat because so few children now watch live TV. The top-rated programme on CBBC attracts as few as 50,000 viewers. Children carry entertainment in their pockets, and they can and do switch between various apps and platforms in a matter of seconds, which is understandably affecting investment in children’s programming.

That creates a vicious cycle: as investment and resources decline, so too does the quality of the output. Instead of trying to provide high-quality, uniquely British public service content for children, broadcasters are then forced to prioritise profitable content that offers little public value and can be sold internationally. Our new clause 9 would enable the Government to take an important first step, recognise the problem and explore routes forward. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity to shape children’s programming for the future, in what is supposed to be a forward-looking piece of legislation. I ask the Minister to give that some consideration.

The Bill also fails to go far enough on age classification. The hon. Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates) and for South West Devon (Sir Gary Streeter) have tabled amendments in this area, for which I thank them, alongside our new clause 14, which shows the breadth of feeling across the House. All these amendments look to tackle the same underlying issue, which is that there is no consistency in how age ratings are currently used on streaming sites. Parents and children alike deserve to be able to have full confidence in age ratings so that when they pick something to watch, they can trust that it will be safe and age-appropriate. Ratings must be easily understood and recognisable by the public and underpinned by a transparent set of criteria that take into account British attitudes on everything from swearing to violence and anything else we might think of.

New clause 14 does not, in my view, overengineer the issue. It does not require every on-demand service to use any specific age rating provider, although we should collectively recognise that the British Board of Film Classification is a great example of best practice. Our public service broadcasters already follow stringent rules, which may mean that age ratings are not appropriate for their content, but where age ratings are already used, there should be clear criteria against which Ofcom can measure their success and quality.

The Bill also falls short when it comes to digital rights to listed events. Listed events have already generated some debate, and I have a great deal of sympathy with the points made by other hon. and right hon. Members about various sporting events. This legislation is supposed to contribute to the future-proofing of public service broadcasters, but I feel that to do that it needs to go further. Our new clause 10 seeks to address that. The rights to broadcast moments of national sporting importance are offered first to channels such as the BBC and ITV, enabling the broadest possible range of British people to watch the likes of Wimbledon and the Olympics.

We agree with the aim of the Bill, which is to protect and modernise the system, while making a few changes to ensure that it is appropriate in the digital age, but unfortunately the Bill falls short in this regard. By not extending the regime to include online clips and highlights, the Bill risks preventing thousands upon thousands of people from feeling the joy of watching British athletes or cricketers compete on the world stage, particularly when those competitions are happening far away, as happened this week with Ben Stokes and co. Considering that the next men’s football World cup and the next two Olympics after Paris 2024—

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Gary Streeter Portrait Sir Gary Streeter (South West Devon) (Con)
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I am pleased to speak in support of amendment 18, tabled in my name and the names of other hon. Members.

I generally welcome this Bill as a valiant attempt to bring the law and regulation up to date in a fast-moving sector of our society, namely broadcasting and on-screen entertainment. I will focus on part 4, which deals with on-demand programme services and, in particular, clause 38, which will usher in a comprehensive review, to be undertaken by Ofcom, of audience protection and the production of a video on demand code.

This welcome Bill reflects how many people watch their entertainment today. My two oldest grandchildren, aged 19 and 18, rarely watch anything on television, but they are always on their tablets or smartphones. They have no concept of seeing what is on the box in the evening, and maybe even recording it, as my wife and I still do. They simply source and download what they want to watch, when they want to watch it, via video on demand.

It is therefore important that we ensure the very best protection is in place, not so much for them—they are both adults now—but for my 12-year-old granddaughter, my seven-year-old grandson and even my two-year-old granddaughter, who has her own tablet on which she watches “Peppa Pig” and “The Wheels on the Bus”—I can confirm that the wheels go round an awful lot. [Laughter.] After 20 years, I am so sick of hearing that song.

Ensuring adequate audience protection measures for video on demand is vital, and clause 38 makes a commendable start, but I believe that amendment 18—shades of which are mirrored in amendments tabled by Members on both sides of the House, as was mentioned by the shadow Secretary of State—would enhance that protection. The amendment contains the following reasonable provision:

“When considering the adequacy of age ratings, OFCOM must report on the extent to which any age ratings used by providers are—

(a) clear and well understood by consumers;

(b) underpinned by a published and transparent set of standards; and

(c) informed by regular and substantive consultation with the UK public.”

I do not think that is asking too much, and I therefore hope the Government will consider it carefully.

The Government have said that the Bill’s objective is to bring in

“stronger protections from harmful or age-inappropriate shows through a new Ofcom…Video-on-demand Code”.

Amendment 18 simply sets out objective criteria to achieve this aim with regard to age ratings. All it requires is that age ratings are clear, transparent and reflect UK expectations about what is age appropriate. That is not a high bar to expect services to meet.

As others have said, we are very fortunate in the UK to have a tried and trusted classifier of content, namely the British Board of Film Classification, which has been age-rating our movies ever since I first went to the pictures in Tiverton to see James Bond in “Thunderball”—I wonder how many colleagues remember that underwater film—and probably for a lot longer than that. The BBFC now rates online content and video on demand.

Opinion polls and surveys tell us that parents understand and trust the BBFC’s rating system. My informal survey of parents in my constituency over the past few weeks has confirmed that. It is the gold standard, and the threshold against which Ofcom can consider the sector as a whole. It is therefore reassuring that Netflix, Apple and Amazon all use BBFC ratings for their video content.

Amendment 18 would not force every content producer to use BBFC ratings, but it would help to ensure that each rating system is fit for purpose. That is the bare minimum we can do to prevent commercial VOD services from exposing children to harmful content because, sadly, all is not well in this sector. It grieves me to say that that is particularly so in relation to Disney.

The current ratings free-for-all has seen Disney+ classifying scenes of sexual abuse as suitable for nine-year-olds and scenes of graphic, misogynistic violence or offensive antisemitic stereotypes as suitable for 12-year-olds. That is lower than it classifies some of its “Star Wars” and superhero content. Until we hold services to a minimum standard, we risk eroding public trust in age ratings as a child-protection measure, and thus perpetuating this entirely preventable harm.

The problem with Disney and Disney+ is that, for most of us, the brand conjures a sense of safety and security that is no longer warranted. When people of my generation hear the word Disney, we think of “Bambi” or “Cinderella”, so the thought that our grandchildren are in the next room watching a Disney+ video is intrinsically reassuring. But that would be an error of judgment, because much of its content is now dark and explicit.

Disney’s rating system is very different from the BBFC’s, and it is based on a Dutch system. Transparency and consistency must be part of the new VOD code, and Ofcom should consider the current lack of coherence and consistency in its review and future work.

Amendment 18 does not seek to change the scope of the Bill or prevent new innovations in audience protection. It is not about mandating any particular solution. Most of us know and respect BBFC age ratings, but nobody will be forced to adopt age ratings where they are not appropriate or not expected, such as on services operated by public service broadcasters. It is purely about setting objective benchmark standards to ensure that, where age ratings are used, they are effective for the purpose of child protection. As that is the stated purpose of the Bill, I hope the amendment will attract Government support.

It is not my intention to divide the House on amendment 18, but I hope that the excellent Minister will introduce similar amendments in the other place. If she does not, I am confident that similar amendments will be tabled in the other place that are likely to be supported, and I certainly would not vote against them when they come back to this place.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman
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I want to respond briefly to the issues just raised by the hon. Member for South West Devon (Sir Gary Streeter). I wonder whether he has looked at my new clause 20. The definition of “on-demand services” is not as he imagines. In the Communications Act 2003, it covers only those services whose “principal purpose” is the provision of programmes, so services such as those on the iPad or consoles would not be covered by the legislation as it stands. The legislation is specifically about those whose principal purpose is to do with providing programmes. It will cover Fire sticks, for example, or Sky Glass, as was mentioned by the Minister, but it will not cover those people watching on a PlayStation or on-demand services on iPads, so the prominence regime would not apply for those who are not watching on something whose “principal purpose” is television.

Anything in the Bill that relates specifically to on-demand services, therefore, even when it comes to age ratings or some of the other requirements we are putting on on-demand services, will apply only to Sky Glass, Fire TV and those sorts of things. That is why I tabled new clause 20, which would amend the Bill to recognise how quickly things move, as a number of Members have pointed out. The way that we consume media changes very regularly, and it has certainly changed dramatically in the 20 years since a media Bill was previously proposed.

I therefore ask Ministers to look at the definition of on-demand services and consider whether it continues to be appropriate; if it does not, new clause 20 would ensure that Ofcom is able to regulate all those places where people watch television. I originally tabled the new clause because of the incredibly high percentage, comparatively, of people in Scotland who watch television exclusively on consoles, without the PSB prominence that we might expect in services that are specifically for streaming TV.

I will speak to a number of the amendments tabled by Members across the House, starting with those tabled by the SNP. I have covered my concerns about the definition of on-demand services, and generally I do not think that the Bill as drafted is all-encompassing enough. The issue of smaller studios, which is covered in our amendments 82 to 85, was raised with me by the Media Reform Coalition. Having quotas for independent studios is good, but some broadcasters have a predilection to using only the super-indies, which account for about 20% of the companies that make independent productions; the smaller indies account for about 80%. Some broadcasters commission almost everything from that 20% of the market, from companies such as Endemol. Those companies do a great job, but they cannot be considered to be small independent studios. Amendments 82 to 85 would encourage public service broadcasters to move outside the scope of those largest independent studios and to give some of their work to smaller studios, which would have significant regional benefits.

New clause 1, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams), looks at how the regions are accounted for, the production hours in each of the regions, and making sure that productions are genuinely regional productions, rather than a lift-and-shift from somewhere else. Those issues are important. Looking at the quota system for stuff being done outside the M25, for example, is not enough. Amendments 82 to 85 would augment the regional quotas recommendations proposed by the hon. Member for Arfon. If broadcasting companies had to look at the smaller independent studios, it would naturally encourage an increase in regional production.

I have one last point to make about the SNP amendments that has not been covered so much by other people. New clause 22, tabled by the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), is similar to my new clause 19 on the diversity of the workforce. That is incredibly important. I made the point in an intervention that I am concerned by the lack of diversity in public service broadcasting. I am concerned by that lack of diversity on and off screen. It is important to look at both areas when considering the future of PSBs. This is not about sticks, nor is it about carrots; it is about transparency. It is about ensuring that all individuals are transparent about whether they are meeting the test of having something that looks like the general population. It is clear that Parliament does not match the diversity of the population, given the incredibly large percentage of men in comparison with women still in this place, even though it has been going in the right direction. However, we need people on screen to reflect the population.

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Hywel Williams Portrait Hywel Williams
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First, may I apologise for my late arrival to the debate, Madam Deputy Speaker? I seriously underestimated hon. Members’ capacity for brevity on the previous business. This afternoon, I would like to speak to my new clause 15 and to refer briefly to new clause 1 and clause 28. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) for her work with me in Committee—

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. It will not be possible for the hon. Gentleman to refer to new clause 1, because he was not here to move it at the beginning. He is fine to speak to new clause 15.

Hywel Williams Portrait Hywel Williams
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Thank you for that guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. New clause 15 seeks to establish a broadcasting and communications authority for Wales. That new independent body would have responsibility for and oversight of broadcasting and media matters in Wales, seeking to reflect the needs of Welsh audiences. Under my new clause, a shadow authority would fulfil the functions of that body before its establishment 12 months after the passing of this Act. The report by the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales recommended that move. Some Members will know that the commission was set up by the Welsh Government and is under the chairmanship of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. It reported last week, and one of its conclusions was that there is a need to look at the devolution of broadcasting. An independent authority to regulate would be an integral part of that provision. Recent events have shown that there is a real need for such an authority in Wales. Some Members will know about the internal issues at S4C, the Welsh language channel, which make the argument that the current broadcasting framework is unsustainable.

BBC Funding

Rosie Winterton Excerpts
Thursday 7th December 2023

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lucy Frazer Portrait The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Lucy Frazer)
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With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the BBC.

The BBC is a great British institution and plays a vital role in our culture and creative economy. It broadcasts our values and identities all over the world, reaching hundreds of millions of people every day. In January 2022, the Government and BBC agreed a six-year funding settlement, which froze the licence fee at £159 for two years. The two-year freeze has already saved every fee payer £17 over 2022 and 2023. That settlement provided vital support for households when inflation was at its highest, while giving the BBC the funding it needed to deliver on its remit.

Under the terms of the settlement, the licence fee must now increase annually in line with the consumer prices index, with the first increase due in April 2024. The Government are committed to supporting families as much as possible during these difficult times. We recognise that bill rises are never welcome and family budgets remain under pressure.

Today, I am announcing that we will use the annual rate of CPI in September to calculate the increase of the BBC licence fee in April 2024. This is the same way the Government calculate inflation-linked increases to state pensions and benefits. The decision means next year’s licence fee increase will be kept as low as possible. In April, the licence fee will rise by 6.7%, to £169.50 annually. That will minimise the rise for households, keeping it to £10.50 over the year, or 88p per month, rather than a rise of £14.50 that would have happened under the previous CPI measure.

While we recognise that household budgets remain under pressure, the decision, alongside the two-year freeze, will save individual licence fee payers over £37 by the end of 2024. These interventions support households, while providing the BBC with £3.8 billion to produce its world-leading content. The Government engaged with both the BBC and S4C to understand the impacts on the finances of both broadcasters. The decision will ensure that S4C, which is also funded from the licence fee, can maintain its unique role in promoting the Welsh language and supporting our public service broadcasting landscape.

Although we have taken steps to ensure that the uplift is kept as low as possible, we recognise that a £10.50 increase will still be felt by licence fee payers. The number of licence fee payers is also declining, with an increasingly competitive media landscape. We need to make sure that the cost of the BBC does not rise exponentially, and that it is not borne by a smaller number of fee payers. We are already seeing an increasing number of households choosing not to hold a TV licence. The number of households holding TV licences fell by 400,000 last year, and has declined by around 1.7 million since 2017-18. That is placing increasing pressure on the BBC’s licence fee income.

We are also seeing a rapidly changing media landscape, with more ways for audiences to watch content. The reach and viewing of broadcast TV fell significantly in 2022, with weekly reach falling from 83% in 2021 to 79% in 2022. As this trend continues, linking the TV licence to watching live TV will become increasingly anachronistic, as audience viewing habits continue to move to digital and on-demand media.

We know that if we want the BBC to succeed, we cannot freeze its income, but at the same time we cannot ask households to pay more to support the BBC indefinitely. We are already supporting the BBC to realise commercial opportunities that will make it more financially sustainable, and will continue to explore them provisionally with the BBC.

The situation clearly shows the need to consider the BBC’s funding arrangements to make sure they are fair for the public and sustainable for the BBC. Therefore, I am also announcing that today the Government are launching a review of the BBC’s funding model. The review will look at how we can ensure the funding model is fair for the public, sustainable for the long term, and supports the BBC’s vital role in growing our creative industries.

The review will be led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and supported by an expert panel. It will assess a range of options for funding the BBC. We are clear that we want the BBC to succeed. The review will include looking at how the BBC can increase its commercial revenues to reduce the burden on licence fee payers. Given pressure on household incomes, I can explicitly rule out this review looking at creating any new taxes. The findings of the review will support the Government to make an informed choice on whether to consult the public on moving to alternative funding models. That would take place as part of the charter review process, in which any final decision on reforming the BBC’s funding model would be taken.

The BBC is a great national institution. We want to ensure that it is fit for the present and whatever the future holds, while keeping costs down for the public. That means ensuring that the BBC is supported by a funding model that is fair to audiences, supports the creative industries, and is sustainable in the age of digital and on-demand media. I commend this statement to the House.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

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Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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I think the shadow Secretary of State needs to live in the real world like the rest of us. People are struggling with the cost of living, and the Government have continued to take steps to protect them. She needs to live in the real world, in which the media landscape is changing. It is totally inappropriate just to sit still and do nothing, because that would destroy the BBC and make it unable to live in this changing world, and it would do nothing to protect licence fee payers. If that is the Labour plan, I do not want see it.

The shadow Secretary of State talked about what we are doing for working families. She knows that this is not the only step that we are taking. We have spent £97 billion supporting families across the country, saving a typical family about £3,300, and cut inflation by half.

The hon. Lady mentions the creative industries. She might have forgotten that since I have been in this role, I have used tax reliefs to support the creative industries. The Labour party voted against that. In fact, the Conservative party has brought in tax reliefs for the creative industries year on year for 10 years, and they were voted down by the Opposition on every single occasion.

Labour does not support the creative industries. The shadow Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson), said that we should be spending more money in schools not on the creative industries, but on others. Under this Conservative Government, the creative industries are growing at double the rate of the rest of the economy and employing 2 million people.

I will happily update the shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on other details relating to the panel. The timetable is that the report will come into play, to me, by the autumn of 2024.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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At the risk of correcting the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), I think the Housing Minister has changed more often than the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

I say to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State that I do not think that anyone will go to the stake for the difference between the September CPI and others, although we can note that, were the BBC licence fee to go up by another 10%, it would still be 50p a week per household, which is probably the best value in broadcasting anywhere.

I am worried that the Government have decided, again, to make a decision without consulting Parliament. If we are to have a public broadcaster funded by a licence fee or some equivalent, Parliament should be brought in more often by Governments. This is probably the fourth time that there has been an announcement of what will happen without Parliament having been consulted first. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend and others will say that Parliament should be brought in. If the choice is between the United States model and public broadcasting, Parliament ought to be able make its views known.

The House will have noticed that the Secretary of State said that the review will look at alternative options for funding the BBC and then said that she

“can…rule out…creating any new taxes.”

I thought that it was Parliament that decides whether we have taxes. The review may want to consider some kind of household payment, whatever we call it—at present it is called the licence fee; if we do not call it a tax, we call it a charge or something else—or something to be taken from existing taxation. If the BBC is a public benefit, why not add to whatever households pay for the licence fee the implied tax on the income that they use to pay it, for example? That would allow the income from existing taxes to go up.

The BBC needs defenders, and I am one of them. As long as I am here, the Government can expect detailed attention, and a great deal of support for doing sensible things.

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I, too, am a defender of the BBC. It provides an outstanding service across the world. I am proud to have seen at first hand the fantastic job that it did for Eurovision, for the coronation and for the last night of the Proms. If we were to create something that spread our values and soft power abroad, we could not do better than creating the BBC. I certainly do not want to see its services diminished, but I want to ensure that it continues to survive in this changing media world. At the moment, it is losing audiences and licence fee payers, and I want to help to support it. That is one thing that we will look at carefully in the review.

The Father of the House rightly mentions the importance of discussion and consultation. My door is open to all those who want to raise points with me. Of course, in due course, we will need to consult, and this is part of the charter review, which will involve a wider consultation exercise.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
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The Conservatives agreed to increase the licence fee in line with inflation, but their own economic mismanagement means more misery for UK citizens. The Government are now desperately trying to wriggle on how they calculate inflation for the purposes of this agreement. There is a pattern among those on the Government Benches that they will breach an agreement, convention or protocol whenever it suits them. Let the Conservatives take responsibility for this BBC uplift, as the need for the rise is entirely due to their mismanagement of the economy.

We all have some criticisms of the BBC. Sometimes they are centred on its domestic news coverage, but the BBC goes far beyond that, extending to drama, radio, documentaries, Gaelic broadcasting and sports coverage. To those who would ding doon the public service broadcasters, I say: be very careful what you wish for. Of course, for many Tories the ideal would be GB News 24 hours a day, with Tory MPs talking to Tory MPs about Tory policies. I believe it is known as “GBeebies”, as one Tory MP after another is wheeled in to rant culture war tosh at the camera, in a pale imitation of American shock jocks. It is a breach of Ofcom rules. Democracy needs tough journalism and MPs scrutinised in long-format interviews by objective journalists.

We have seen what the cuts lead to. The BBC agreed, most foolishly, to take responsibility for over-75s’ licences, under the previous director general, Tony Hall. That has led to cuts in news, most recently at “Newsnight”, which I was once proud to serve as a reporter. The BBC opposed the Government’s reneging on their agreement on that at the time, and we have seen the results.

In the years to come, the BBC may need a different funding format, but that time is not now. In closing, may I ask the Secretary of State, on behalf of my colleagues on the Select Committee, to explain why the news of the new BBC chair was leaked to the press, rather than being given directly to Committee members or the Committee Chair?

Bill to be considered
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Mr Speaker has selected the recommittal motion in the name of Sir Chris Bryant. I call him to move the motion.

--- Later in debate ---
John Whittingdale Portrait Sir John Whittingdale
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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 48—Processing of personal data revealing political opinions.

Government new clause 7—Searches in response to data subjects’ requests.

Government new clause 8—Notices from the Information Commissioner.

Government new clause 9—Court procedure in connection with subject access requests.

Government new clause 10—Approval of a supplementary code.

Government new clause 11—Designation of a supplementary code.

Government new clause 12—List of recognised supplementary codes.

Government new clause 13—Change to conditions for approval or designation.

Government new clause 14—Revision of a recognised supplementary code.

Government new clause 15—Applications for approval and re-approval.

Government new clause 16—Fees for approval, re-approval and continued approval.

Government new clause 17—Request for withdrawal of approval.

Government new clause 18—Removal of designation.

Government new clause 19—Registration of additional services.

Government new clause 20—Supplementary notes.

Government new clause 21—Addition of services to supplementary notes.

Government new clause 22—Duty to remove services from the DVS register.

Government new clause 23—Duty to remove supplementary notes from the DVS register.

Government new clause 24—Duty to remove services from supplementary notes.

Government new clause 25—Index of defined terms for Part 2.

Government new clause 26—Powers relating to verification of identity or status.

Government new clause 27—Interface bodies.

Government new clause 28—The FCA and financial services interfaces.

Government new clause 29—The FCA and financial services interfaces: supplementary.

Government new clause 30—The FCA and financial services interfaces: penalties and levies.

Government new clause 31—Liability and damages.

Government new clause 32—Other data provision.

Government new clause 33—Duty to notify the Commissioner of personal data breach: time periods.

Government new clause 34—Power to require information for social security purposes.

Government new clause 35—Retention of information by providers of internet services in connection with death of child.

Government new clause 36—Retention of biometric data and recordable offences.

Government new clause 37—Retention of pseudonymised biometric data.

Government new clause 38—Retention of biometric data from INTERPOL.

Government new clause 39—National Underground Asset Register.

Government new clause 40—Information in relation to apparatus.

Government new clause 41—Pre-commencement consultation.

Government new clause 42—Transfer of certain functions of Secretary of State.

New clause 1—Processing of data in relation to a case-file prepared by the police service for submission to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision

“(1) The 2018 Act is amended in accordance with subsection (2).

(2) In the 2018 Act, after section 40 insert—

“40A Processing of data in relation to a case-file prepared by the police service for submission to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision

(1) This section applies to a set of processing operations consisting of the preparation of a case-file by the police service for submission to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision, the making of a charging decision by the Crown Prosecution Service, and the return of the case-file by the Crown Prosecution Service to the police service after a charging decision has been made.

(2) The police service is not obliged to comply with the first data protection principle except insofar as that principle requires processing to be fair, or the third data protection principle, in preparing a case-file for submission to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision.

(3) The Crown Prosecution Service is not obliged to comply with the first data protection principle except insofar as that principle requires processing to be fair, or the third data protection principle, in making a charging decision on a case-file submitted for that purpose by the police service.

(4) If the Crown Prosecution Service decides that a charge will not be pursued when it makes a charging decision on a case-file submitted for that purpose by the police service it must take all steps reasonably required to destroy and delete all copies of the case-file in its possession.

(5) If the Crown Prosecution Service decides that a charge will be pursued when it makes a charging decision on a case-file submitted for that purpose by the police service it must return the case-file to the police service and take all steps reasonably required to destroy and delete all copies of the case-file in its possession.

(6) Where the Crown Prosecution Service decides that a charge will be pursued when it makes a charging decision on a case-file submitted for that purpose by the police service and returns the case-file to the police service under subsection (5), the police service must comply with the first data protection principle and the third data protection principle in relation to any subsequent processing of the data contained in the case-file.

(7) For the purposes of this section—

(a) The police service means—

(i) constabulary maintained by virtue of an enactment, or

(ii) subject to section 126 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (prison staff not to be regarded as in police service), any other service whose members have the powers or privileges of a constable.

(b) The preparation of, or preparing, a case-file by the police service for submission to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision includes the submission of the file.

(c) A case-file includes all information obtained by the police service for the purpose of preparing a case-file for submission to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision.””

This new clause adjusts Section 40 of the Data Protection Act 2018 to exempt the police service and the Crown Prosecution Service from the first and third data protection principles contained within the 2018 Act so that they can share unredacted data with one another when making a charging decision.

New clause 2—Common standards and timeline for implementation

“(1) Within one month of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must by regulations require those appointed as decision-makers to create, publish and update as required open and common standards for access to customer data and business data.

(2) Standards created by virtue of subsection (1) must be interoperable with those created as a consequence of Part 2 of the Retail Banking Market Investigation Order 2017, made by the Competition and Markets Authority.

(3) Regulations under section 66 and 68 must ensure interoperability of customer data and business data with standards created by virtue of subsection (1).

(4) Within one month of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must publish a list of the sectors to which regulations under section 66 and section 68 will apply within three years of the passage of the Act, and the date by which those regulations will take effect in each case.”

This new clause, which is intended to be placed in Part 3 (Customer data and business data) of the Bill, would require interoperability across all sectors of the economy in smart data standards, including the Open Banking standards already in effect, and the publication of a timeline for implementation.

New clause 3—Provision about representation of data subjects

“(1) Section 190 of the Data Protection Act 2018 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), leave out “After the report under section 189(1) is laid before Parliament, the Secretary of State may” and insert “The Secretary of State must, within three months of the passage of the Data Protection and Digital Information Act 2024,”.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to exercise powers under s190 DPA2018 to allow organisations to raise data breach complaints on behalf of data subjects generally, in the absence of a particular subject who wishes to bring forward a claim about misuse of their own personal data.

New clause 4—Review of notification of changes of circumstances legislation

“(1) The Secretary of State must commission a review of the operation of the Social Security (Notification of Changes of Circumstances) Regulations 2010.

(2) In conducting the review, the designated reviewer must—

(a) consider the current operation and effectiveness of the legislation;

(b) identify any gaps in its operation and provisions;

(c) consider and publish recommendations as to how the scope of the legislation could be expanded to include non-public sector, voluntary and private sector holders of personal data.

(3) In undertaking the review, the reviewer must consult—

(a) specialists in data sharing;

(b) people and organisations who campaign for the interests of people affected by the legislation;

(c) people and organisations who use the legislation;

(d) any other persons and organisations the review considers appropriate.

(4) The Secretary of State must lay a report of the review before each House of Parliament within six months of this Act coming into force.”

This new clause requires a review of the operation of the “Tell Us Once” programme, which seeks to provide simpler mechanisms for citizens to pass information regarding births and deaths to government, and consideration of whether the progress of “Tell Us Once” could be extended to non-public sector holders of data.

New clause 5—Definition of “biometric data”

“Article 9 of the UK GDPR is amended by the omission, in paragraph 1, of the words “for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person”.”

This new clause would amend the UK General Data Protection Regulation to extend the protections currently in place for biometric data for identification to include biometric data for the purpose of classification.

New clause 43—Right to use non-digital verification services

“(1) This section applies when an organisation—

(a) requires an individual to use a verification service, and

(b) uses a digital verification service for that purpose.

(2) The organisation—

(a) must make a non-digital alternative method of verification available to any individual required to use a verification service, and

(b) must provide information about digital and non-digital methods of verification to those individuals before verification is required.”

This new clause, which is intended for insertion into Part 2 of the Bill (Digital verification services), creates the right for data subjects to use non-digital identity verification services as an alternative to digital verification services, thereby preventing digital verification from becoming mandatory in certain settings.

New clause 44—Transfer of functions to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office

“The functions of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner are transferred to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.”

New clause 45—Interoperability of data and collection of comparable healthcare statistics across the UK

“(1) The Health and Social Care Act 2012 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 250, insert the following section—

“250A Interoperability of data and collection of comparable healthcare statistics across the UK

(1) The Secretary of State must prepare and publish an information standard specifying binding data interoperability requirements which apply across the whole of the United Kingdom.

(2) An information standard prepared and published under this section—

(a) must include guidance about the implementation of the standard;

(b) may apply to any public body which exercises functions in connection with the provision of health services anywhere in the United Kingdom.

(3) A public body to which an information standard prepared and published under this section applies must have regard to the standard.

(4) The Secretary of State must report to Parliament each year on progress on the implementation of an information standard prepared in accordance with this section.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

“health services” has the same meaning as in section 250 of this Act, except that for “in England” there is substituted “anywhere in the United Kingdom”, and “the health service” in parts of the United Kingdom other than England has the meaning given by the relevant statute of that part of the United Kingdom;

“public body” has the same meaning as in section 250 of this Act.”

(3) In section 254 (Powers to direct NHS England to establish information systems), after subsection (2), insert—

“(2A) The Secretary of State must give a direction under subsection (1) directing NHS England to collect and publish information about healthcare performance and outcomes in all parts of the United Kingdom in a way which enables comparison between different parts of the United Kingdom.

(2B) Before giving a direction by virtue of subsection (2A), the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the bodies responsible for the collection and publication of official statistics in each part of the United Kingdom,

(b) Scottish Ministers,

(c) Welsh Ministers, and

(d) Northern Ireland departments.

(2C) The Secretary of State may not give a direction by virtue of subsection (2A) unless a copy of the direction has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, both Houses of Parliament.

(2D) Scottish Ministers, Welsh Ministers and Northern Ireland departments must arrange for the information relating to the health services for which they have responsibility described in the direction given by virtue of subsection (2A) to be made available to NHS England in accordance with the direction.

(2E) For the purposes of a direction given by virtue of subsection (2A), the definition of “health and social care body” given in section 259(11) applies as if for “England” there were substituted “the United Kingdom”.””

New clause 46—Assessment of impact of Act on EU adequacy

“(1) Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must carry out an assessment of the impact of the Act on EU adequacy, and lay a report of that assessment before both Houses of Parliament.

(2) The report must assess the impact on—

(a) data risk, and

(b) small and medium-sized businesses.

(3) The report must quantify the impact of the Act in financial terms.”

New clause 47—Review of the impact of the Act on anonymisation and the identifiability of data subjects

“(1) Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament the report of an assessment of the impact of the measures in the Act on anonymisation and the identifiability of data subjects.

(2) The report must include a comparison between the rights afforded to data subjects under this Act with those afforded to data subjects by the EU General Data Protection Regulation.”

Amendment 278, in clause 5, page 6, line 15, leave out paragraphs (b) and (c).

This amendment and Amendment 279 would remove the power for the Secretary of State to create pre-defined and pre-authorised “recognised legitimate interests”, for data processing. Instead, the current test would continue to apply in which personal data can only be processed in pursuit of a legitimate interest, as balanced with individual rights and freedoms.

Amendment 279, page 6, line 23, leave out subsections (4), (5) and (6).

See explanatory statement to Amendment 278.

Amendment 230, page 7, leave out lines 1 and 2 and insert—

“8. The Secretary of State may not make regulations under paragraph 6 unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before both Houses of Parliament for the 60-day period.

8A. The Secretary of State must consider any representations made during the 60-day period in respect of anything in the draft regulations laid under paragraph 8.

8B. If, after the end of the 60-day period, the Secretary of State wishes to proceed to make the regulations, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a draft of the regulations (incorporating any changes the Secretary of State considers appropriate pursuant to paragraph 8A).

8C. Draft regulations laid under paragraph 8B must, before the end of the 40-day period, have been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

8D. In this Article—

“the 40-day period” means the period of 40 days beginning on the day on which the draft regulations mentioned in paragraph 8 are laid before Parliament (or, if it is not laid before each House of Parliament on the same day, the later of the days on which it is laid);

“the 60-day period” means the period of 60 days beginning on the day on which the draft regulations mentioned in paragraph 8B are laid before Parliament (or, if it is not laid before each House of Parliament on the same day, the later of the days on which it is laid).

8E. When calculating the 40-day period or the 60-day period for the purposes of paragraph 8D, ignore any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than 4 days.”

This amendment would make regulations made in respect of recognised legitimate interest subject to a super-affirmative Parliamentary procedure.

Amendment 11, page 7, line 12, at end insert—

““internal administrative purposes” , in relation to special category data, means the conditions set out for lawful processing in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 2018.”

This amendment clarifies that the processing of special category data in employment must follow established principles for reasonable processing, as defined by paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 2018.

Government amendment 252.

Amendment 222, page 10, line 8, leave out clause 8.

Amendment 3, in clause 8, page 10, leave out line 31.

This amendment would mean that the resources available to the controller could not be taken into account when determining whether a request is vexatious or excessive.

Amendment 2, page 11, line 34, at end insert—

“(6A) When informing the data subject of the reasons for not taking action on the request in accordance with subsection (6), the controller must provide evidence of why the request has been treated as vexatious or excessive.”

This amendment would require the data controller to provide evidence of why a request has been considered vexatious or excessive if the controller is refusing to take action on the request.

Government amendment 17.

Amendment 223, page 15, line 22, leave out clause 10.

Amendment 224, page 18, line 7, leave out clause 12.

Amendment 236, in clause 12, page 18, line 21, at end insert—

“(c) a data subject is an identified or identifiable individual who is affected by a significant decision, irrespective of the direct presence of their personal data in the decision-making process.”

This amendment would clarify that a “data subject” includes identifiable individuals who are subject to data-based and automated decision-making, whether or not their personal data is directly present in the decision-making process.

Amendment 232, page 19, line 12, leave out “solely” and insert “predominantly”.

This amendment would mean safeguards for data subjects’ rights, freedoms and legitimate interests would have to be in place in cases where a significant decision in relation to a data subject was taken based predominantly, rather than solely, on automated processing.

Amendment 5, page 19, line 12, after “solely” insert “or partly”.

This amendment would mean that the protections provided for by the new Article 22C would apply where a decision is based either solely or partly on automated processing, not only where it is based solely on such processing.

Amendment 233, page 19, line 18, at end insert

“including the reasons for the processing.”

This amendment would require data controllers to provide the data subject with the reasons for the processing of their data in cases where a significant decision in relation to a data subject was taken based on automated processing.

Amendment 225, page 19, line 18, at end insert—

“(aa) require the controller to inform the data subject when a decision described in paragraph 1 has been taken in relation to the data subject;”.

Amendment 221, page 20, line 3, at end insert—

“7. When exercising the power to make regulations under this Article, the Secretary

of State must have regard to the following statement of principles:

Digital information principles at work

1. People should have access to a fair, inclusive and trustworthy digital environment

at work.

2. Algorithmic systems should be designed and used to achieve better outcomes:

to make work better, not worse, and not for surveillance. Workers and their

representatives should be involved in this process.

3. People should be protected from unsafe, unaccountable and ineffective

algorithmic systems at work. Impacts on individuals and groups must be assessed

in advance and monitored, with reasonable and proportionate steps taken.

4. Algorithmic systems should not harm workers’ mental or physical health, or

integrity.

5. Workers and their representatives should always know when an algorithmic

system is being used, how and why it is being used, and what impacts it may

have on them or their work.

6. Workers and their representatives should be involved in meaningful consultation

before and during use of an algorithmic system that may significantly impact

work or people.

7. Workers should have control over their own data and digital information collected

about them at work.

8. Workers and their representatives should always have an opportunity for human

contact, review and redress when an algorithmic system is used at work where

it may significantly impact work or people. This includes a right to a written

explanation when a decision is made.

9. Workers and their representatives should be able to use their data and digital

technologies for contact and association to improve work quality and conditions.

10. Workers should be supported to build the information, literacy and skills needed

to fulfil their capabilities through work transitions.”

This amendment would insert into new Article 22D of the UK GDPR a requirement for the Secretary of State to have regard to the statement of digital information principles at work when making regulations about automated decision-making.

Amendment 4, in clause 15, page 25, line 4, at end insert

“(including in the cases specified in sub-paragraphs (a) to (c) of paragraph 3 of Article 35)”.

This amendment, together with Amendment 1, would provide a definition of what constitutes “high risk processing” for the purposes of applying Articles 27A, 27B and 27C, which require data controllers to designate, and specify the duties of, a “senior responsible individual” with responsibility for such processing.

Government amendments 18 to 44.

Amendment 12, in page 32, line 7, leave out clause 17.

This amendment keeps the current requirement on police in the Data Protection Act 2018 to justify why they have accessed an individual’s personal data.

Amendment 1, in clause 18, page 32, line 18, leave out paragraph (c) and insert—

“(c) omit paragraph 2,

(ca) in paragraph 3—

(i) for “data protection” substitute “high risk processing”,

(ii) in sub-paragraph (a), for “natural persons” substitute “individuals”,

(iii) in sub-paragraph (a) for “natural person” substitute “individual” in both places where it occurs,

(cb) omit paragraphs 4 and 5,”.

This amendment would leave paragraph 3 of Article 35 of the UK GDPR in place (with amendments reflecting amendments made by the Bill elsewhere in the Article), thereby ensuring that there is a definition of “high risk processing” on the face of the Regulation.

Amendment 226, page 39, line 38, leave out clause 26.

Amendment 227, page 43, line 2, leave out clause 27.

Amendment 228, page 46, line 32, leave out clause 28.

Government amendment 45.

Amendment 235, page 57, line 29, leave out clause 34.

This amendment would leave in place the existing regime, which refers to “manifestly unfounded” or excessive requests to the Information Commissioner, rather than the proposed change to “vexatious” or excessive requests.

Government amendments 46 and 47.

Amendment 237, in clause 48, page 77, line 4, leave out “individual” and insert “person”.

This amendment and Amendments 238 to 240 are intended to enable the digital verification services covered by the Bill to include verification of organisations as well as individuals.

Amendment 238, page 77, line 5, leave out “individual” and insert “person”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 237.

Amendment 239, page 77, line 6, leave out “individual” and insert “person”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 237.

Amendment 240, page 77, line 7, leave out “individual” and insert “person”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 237.

Amendment 241, page 77, line 8, at end insert (on new line)—

“and the facts which may be so ascertained, verified or confirmed may include the fact that an individual has a claimed connection with a legal person.”

This amendment would ensure that the verification services covered by the Bill will include verification that an individual has a claimed connection with a legal person.

Government amendments 48 to 50.

Amendment 280, in clause 49, page 77, line 13, at end insert—

“(2A) The DVS trust framework must include a description of how the provision of digital verification services is expected to uphold the Identity Assurance Principles.

(2B) Schedule (Identity Assurance Principles) describes each Identity Assurance Principle and its effect.”

Amendment 281, page 77, line 13, at end insert—

“(2A) The DVS trust framework must allow valid attributes to be protected by zero-knowledge proof and other decentralised technologies, without restriction upon how and by whom those proofs may be held or processed.”

Government amendments 51 to 66.

Amendment 248, in clause 52, page 79, line 7, at end insert—

“(1A) A determination under subsection (1) may specify an amount which is tiered to the size of the person and its role as specified in the DVS trust framework.”

This amendment would enable fees for application for registration in the DVS register to be determined on the basis of the size and role of the organisation applying to be registered.

Amendment 243, page 79, line 8, after “may”, insert “not”.

This amendment would provide that the fee for application for registration in the DVS register could not exceed the administrative costs of determining the application.

Government amendment 67.

Amendment 244, page 79, line 13, after “may”, insert “not”.

This amendment would provide that the fee for continued registration in the DVS register could not exceed the administrative costs of that registration.

Government amendment 68.

Amendment 245, page 79, line 21, at end insert—

“(10) The fees payable under this section must be reviewed every two years by the National Audit Office.”

This amendment would provide that the fees payable for DVS registration must be reviewed every two years by the NAO.

Government amendments 69 to 77.

Amendment 247, in clause 54, page 80, line 38, after “person”, insert “or by other parties”.

This amendment would enable others, for example independent experts, to make representations about a decision to remove a person from the DVS register, as well as the person themselves.

Amendment 246, page 81, line 7, at end insert—

“(11) The Secretary of State may not exercise the power granted by subsection (1) until the Secretary of State has consulted on proposals for how a decision to remove a person from the DVS register will be reached, including—

(a) how information will be collected from persons impacted by a decision to remove the person from the register, and from others;

(b) how complaints will be managed;

(c) how evidence will be reviewed;

(d) what the burden of proof will be on which a decision will be based.”

This amendment would provide that the power to remove a person from the DVS register could not be exercised until the Secretary of State had consulted on the detail of how a decision to remove would be reached.

Government amendments 78 to 80.

Amendment 249, in clause 62, page 86, line 17, at end insert—

“(3A) A notice under this section must give the recipient of the notice an opportunity to consult the Secretary of State on the content of the notice before providing the information required by the notice.”

This amendment would provide an option for consultation between the Secretary of State and the recipient of an information notice before the information required by the notice has to be provided.

Government amendment 81.

Amendment 242, in clause 63, page 87, line 21, leave out “may” and insert “must”.

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to make arrangements for a person to exercise the Secretary of State’s functions under this Part of the Bill, so that an independent regulator would perform the relevant functions and not the Secretary of State.

Amendment 250, in clause 64, page 87, line 34, at end insert—

“(1A) A report under subsection (1) must include a report on any arrangements made under section 63 for a third party to exercise functions under this Part.”

This amendment would require information about arrangements for a third party to exercise functions under this Part of the Bill to be included in the annual reports on the operation of the Part.

Government amendments 82 to 196.

Amendment 6, in clause 83, page 107, leave out from line 26 to the end of line 34 on page 108.

This amendment would leave out the proposed new regulation 6B of the PEC Regulations, which would enable consent to be given, or an objection to be made, to cookies automatically.

Amendment 217, page 109, line 20, leave out clause 86.

This amendment would leave out the clause which would enable the sending of direct marketing electronic mail on a “soft opt-in” basis.

Amendment 218, page 110, line 1, leave out clause 87.

This amendment would remove the clause which would enable direct marketing for the purposes of democratic engagement. See also Amendment 220.

Government amendments 253 to 255.

Amendment 219, page 111, line 6, leave out clause 88.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 218.

Government amendments 256 to 265.

Amendment 7, in clause 89, page 114, line 12, at end insert—

“(2A) A provider of a public electronic communications service or network is not required to intercept or examine the content of any communication in order to comply with their duty under this regulation.”

This amendment would clarify that a public electronic communications service or network is not required to intercept or examine the content of any communication in order to comply with their duty to notify the Commissioner of unlawful direct marketing.

Amendment 8, page 117, line 3, at end insert—

“(5) In regulation 1—

(a) at the start, insert “(1)”;

(b) after “shall”, insert “save for regulation 26A”;

(c) at end, insert—

“(2) Regulation 26A comes into force six months after the Commissioner has published guidance under regulation 26C (Guidance in relation to regulation 26A).””

This amendment would provide for the new regulation 26A, Duty to notify Commissioner of unlawful direct marketing, not to come into force until six months after the Commissioner has published guidance in relation to that duty.

Government amendment 197.

Amendment 251, in clause 101, page 127, line 3, leave out “and deaths” and insert “, deaths and deed polls”.

This amendment would require deed poll information to be kept to the same standard as records of births and deaths.

Amendment 9, page 127, line 24, at end insert—

“(2A) After section 25, insert—

“25A Review of form in which registers are to be kept

(1) The Secretary of State must commission a review of the provisions of this Act and of related legislation, with a view to the creation of a single digital register of births and deaths.

(2) The review must consider and make recommendations on the effect of the creation of a single digital register on—

(a) fraud,

(b) data collection, and

(c) ease of registration.

(3) The Secretary of State must lay a report of the review before each House of Parliament within six months of this section coming into force.””

This amendment would insert a new section into the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 requiring a review of relevant legislation, with consideration of creating a single digital register for registered births and registered deaths and recommendations on the effects of such a change on reducing fraud, improving data collection and streamlining digital registration.

Government amendment 198.

Amendment 229, in clause 112, page 135, line 8, leave out subsections (2) and (3).

Amendment 10, in clause 113, page 136, line 35, leave out

“which allows or confirms the unique identification of that individual”.

This amendment would amend the definition of “biometric data” for the purpose of the oversight of law enforcement biometrics databases so as to extend the protections currently in place for biometric data for identification to include biometric data for the purpose of classification.

Government amendments 199 to 207.

Government new schedule 1—Power to require information for social security purposes.

Government new schedule 2—National Underground Asset Register: monetary penalties.

New schedule 3—Identity Assurance Principles

“Part 1

Definitions

1 These Principles are limited to the processing of Identity Assurance Data (IdA Data) in an Identity Assurance Service (e.g. establishing and verifying identity of a Service User; conducting a transaction that uses a user identity; maintaining audit requirements in relation a transaction associated with the use of a service that needs identity verification etc.). They do not cover, for example, any data used to deliver a service, or to measure its quality.

2 In the context of the application of the Identity Assurance Principles to an Identity Assurance Service, “Identity Assurance Data” (“IdA Data”) means any recorded information that is connected with a “Service User” including—

“Audit Data.” This includes any recorded information that is connected with any log or audit associated with an Identity Assurance Service.

“General Data.” This means any other recorded information which is not personal data, audit data or relationship data, but is still connected with a “Service User”.

“Personal Data.” This takes its meaning from the Data Protection Act 2018 or subsequent legislation (e.g. any recorded information that relates to a “Service User” who is also an identified or identifiable living individual).

“Relationship Data.” This means any recorded information that describes (or infers) a relationship between a “Service User”, “Identity Provider” or “Service Provider” with another “Service User”, “Identity Provider” or “Service Provider” and includes any cookie or program whose purpose is to supply a means through which relationship data are collected.

3 Other terms used in relation to the Principles are defined as follows—

“save-line2Identity Assurance Service.” This includes relevant applications of the technology (e.g. hardware, software, database, documentation) in the possession or control of any “Service User”, “Identity Provider” or “Service Provider” that is used to facilitate identity assurance activities; it also includes any IdA Data processed by that technology or by an Identity Provider or by a Service Provider in the context of the Service; and any IdA Data processed by the underlying infrastructure for the purpose of delivering the IdA service or associated billing, management, audit and fraud prevention.

“Identity Provider.” This means the certified individual or certified organisation that provides an Identity Assurance Service (e.g. establishing an identity, verification of identity); it includes any agent of a certified Identity Provider that processes IdA data in connection with that Identity Assurance Service.

“Participant.” This means any “Identity Provider”, “Service Provider” or “Service User” in an Identity Assurance Service. A “Participant” includes any agent by definition.

“Processing.” In the context of IdA data means “collecting, using, disclosing, retaining, transmitting, copying, comparing, corroborating, correlating, aggregating, accessing” the data and includes any other operation performed on IdA data.

“Provider.” Includes both “Identity Provider” and/or “Service Provider”.

“Service Provider.” This means the certified individual or certified organisation that provides a service that uses an Identity Provider in order to verify identity of the Service User; it includes any agent of the Service Provider that processes IdA data from an Identity Assurance Service.

“Service User.” This means the person (i.e. an organisation (incorporated or not)) or an individual (dead or alive) who has established (or is establishing) an identity with an Identity Provider; it includes an agent (e.g. a solicitor, family member) who acts on behalf of a Service User with proper authority (e.g. a public guardian, or a Director of a company, or someone who possesses power of attorney). The person may be living or deceased (the identity may still need to be used once its owner is dead, for example by an executor).

“Third Party.” This means any person (i.e. any organisation or individual) who is not a “Participant” (e.g. the police or a Regulator).

Part 2

The Nine Identity Assurance Principles

Any exemptions from these Principles must be specified via the “Exceptional Circumstances Principle”. (See Principle 9).

1 User Control Principle

Statement of Principle: “I can exercise control over identity assurance activities affecting me and these can only take place if I consent or approve them.”

1.1 An Identity Provider or Service Provider must ensure any collection, use or disclosure of IdA data in, or from, an Identity Assurance Service is approved by each particular Service User who is connected with the IdA data.

1.2 There should be no compulsion to use the Identity Assurance Service and Service Providers should offer alternative mechanisms to access their services. Failing to do so would undermine the consensual nature of the service.

2 Transparency Principle

Statement of Principle: “Identity assurance can only take place in ways I understand and when I am fully informed.”

2.1 Each Identity Provider or Service Provider must be able to justify to Service Users why their IdA data are processed. Ensuring transparency of activity and effective oversight through auditing and other activities inspires public trust and confidence in how their details are used.

2.2 Each Service User must be offered a clear description about the processing of IdA data in advance of any processing. Identity Providers must be transparent with users about their particular models for service provision.

2.3 The information provided includes a clear explanation of why any specific information has to be provided by the Service User (e.g. in order that a particular level of identity assurance can be obtained) and identifies any obligation on the part of the Service User (e.g. in relation to the User’s role in securing his/her own identity information).

2.4 The Service User will be able to identify which Service Provider they are using at any given time.

2.5 Any subsequent and significant change to the processing arrangements that have been previously described to a Service User requires the prior consent or approval of that Service User before it comes into effect.

2.6 All procedures, including those involved with security, should be made publicly available at the appropriate time, unless such transparency presents a security or privacy risk. For example, the standards of encryption can be identified without jeopardy to the encryption keys being used.

3 Multiplicity Principle

Statement of Principle: “I can use and choose as many different identifiers or identity providers as I want to.”

3.1 A Service User is free to use any number of identifiers that each uniquely identifies the individual or business concerned.

3.2 A Service User can use any of his identities established with an Identity Provider with any Service Provider.

3.3 A Service User shall not be obliged to use any Identity Provider or Service Provider not chosen by that Service User; however, a Service Provider can require the Service User to provide a specific level of Identity Assurance, appropriate to the Service User’s request to a Service Provider.

3.4 A Service User can choose any number of Identity Providers and where possible can choose between Service Providers in order to meet his or her diverse needs. Where a Service User chooses to register with more than one Identity Provider, Identity Providers and Service Providers must not link the Service User’s different accounts or gain information about their use of other Providers.

3.5 A Service User can terminate, suspend or change Identity Provider and where possible can choose between Service Providers at any time.

3.6 A Service Provider does not know the identity of the Identity Provider used by a Service User to verify an identity in relation to a specific service. The Service Provider knows that the Identity Provider can be trusted because the Identity Provider has been certified, as set out in GPG43 – Requirements for Secure Delivery of Online Public Services (RSDOPS).

4 Data Minimisation Principle

Statement of Principle: “My interactions only use the minimum data necessary to meet my needs.”

4.1 Identity Assurance should only be used where a need has been established and only to the appropriate minimum level of assurance.

4.2 Identity Assurance data processed by an Identity Provider or a Service Provider to facilitate a request of a Service User must be the minimum necessary in order to fulfil that request in a secure and auditable manner.

4.3 When a Service User stops using a particular Identity Provider, their data should be deleted. Data should be retained only where required for specific targeted fraud, security or other criminal investigation purposes.

5 Data Quality Principle

Statement of Principle: “My interactions only use the minimum data necessary to meet my needs.”

5.1 Service Providers should enable Service Users (or authorised persons, such as the holder of a Power of Attorney) to be able to update their own personal data, at a time at their choosing, free of charge and in a simple and easy manner.

5.2 Identity Providers and Service Providers must take account of the appropriate level of identity assurance required before allowing any updating of personal data.

6 Service User Access and Portability Principle

Statement of Principle: “I have to be provided with copies of all of my data on request; I can move/remove my data whenever I want.”

6.1 Each Identity Provider or Service Provider must allow, promptly, on request and free of charge, each Service User access to any IdA data that relates to that Service User.

6.2 It shall be unlawful to make it a condition of doing anything in relation to a Service User to request or require that Service User to request IdA data.

6.3 The Service User must be able to require an Identity Provider to transfer his personal data, to a second Identity Provider in a standard electronic format, free of charge and without impediment or delay.

7 Certification Principle

Statement of Principle: “I can have confidence in the Identity Assurance Service because all the participants have to be certified against common governance requirements.”

7.1 As a baseline control, all Identity Providers and Service Providers will be certified against a shared standard. This is one important way of building trust and confidence in the service.

7.2 As part of the certification process, Identity Providers and Service Providers are obliged to co-operate with the independent Third Party and accept their impartial determination and to ensure that contractual arrangements—

• reinforce the application of the Identity Assurance Principles

• contain a reference to the independent Third Party as a mechanism for dispute resolution.

7.3 In the context of personal data, certification procedures include the use of Privacy Impact Assessments, Security Risk Assessments, Privacy by Design concepts and, in the context of information security, a commitment to using appropriate technical measures (e.g. encryption) and ever improving security management. Wherever possible, such certification processes and security procedures reliant on technical devices should be made publicly available at the appropriate time.

7.4 All Identity Providers and Service Providers will take all reasonable steps to ensure that a Third Party cannot capture IdA data that confirms (or infers) the existence of relationship between any Participant. No relationships between parties or records should be established without the consent of the Service User.

7.5 Certification can be revoked if there is significant non-compliance with any Identity Assurance Principle.

8 Dispute Resolution Principle

Statement of Principle: “If I have a dispute, I can go to an independent Third Party for a resolution.”

8.1 A Service User who, after a reasonable time, cannot, or is unable, to resolve a complaint or problem directly with an Identity Provider or Service Provider can call upon an independent Third Party to seek resolution of the issue. This could happen for example where there is a disagreement between the Service User and the Identity Provider about the accuracy of data.

8.2 The independent Third Party can resolve the same or similar complaints affecting a group of Service Users.

8.3 The independent Third Party can co-operate with other regulators in order to resolve problems and can raise relevant issues of importance concerning the Identity Assurance Service.

8.4 An adjudication/recommendation of the independent Third Party should be published. The independent Third Party must operate transparently, but detailed case histories should only be published subject to appropriate review and consent.

8.5 There can be more than one independent Third Party.

8.6 The independent Third Party can recommend changes to standards or certification procedures or that an Identity Provider or Service Provider should lose their certification.

9 Exceptional Circumstances Principle

Statement of Principle: “Any exception has to be approved by Parliament and is subject to independent scrutiny.”

9.1 Any exemption from the application of any of the above Principles to IdA data shall only be lawful if it is linked to a statutory framework that legitimises all Identity Assurance Services, or an Identity Assurance Service in the context of a specific service. In the absence of such a legal framework then alternative measures must be taken to ensure, transparency, scrutiny and accountability for any exceptions.

9.2 Any exemption from the application of any of the above Principles that relates to the processing of personal data must also be necessary and justifiable in terms of one of the criteria in Article 8(2) of the European Convention of Human Rights: namely in the interests of national security; public safety or the economic well-being of the country; for the prevention of disorder or crime; for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

9.3 Any subsequent processing of personal data by any Third Party who has obtained such data in exceptional circumstances (as identified by Article 8(2) above) must be the minimum necessary to achieve that (or another) exceptional circumstance.

9.4 Any exceptional circumstance involving the processing of personal data must be subject to a Privacy Impact Assessment by all relevant “data controllers” (where “data controller” takes its meaning from the Data Protection Act).

9.5 Any exemption from the application of any of the above Principles in relation to IdA data shall remain subject to the Dispute Resolution Principle.”

Amendment 220, in schedule 1, page 141, leave out from line 21 to the end of line 36 on page 144.

This amendment would remove from the new Annex 1 of the UK GDPR provisions which would enable direct marketing for the purposes of democratic engagement. See also Amendment 218.

Government amendments 266 to 277.

Government amendments 208 to 211.

Amendment 15, in schedule 5, page 154, line 2, at end insert—

“(g) the views of the Information Commission on suitability of international transfer of data to the country or organisation.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to seek the views of the Information Commission on whether a country or organisation has met the data protection test for international data transfer.

Amendment 14, page 154, line 25, at end insert—

“5. In relation to special category data, the Information Commissioner must assess whether the data protection test is met for data transfer to a third country or international organisation.”

This amendment requires the Information Commission to assess suitability for international transfer of special category data to a third country or international organisation.

Amendment 13, page 154, line 30, leave out “ongoing” and insert “annual”.

This amendment mandates that a country’s suitability for international transfer of data is monitored on an annual basis.

Amendment 16, in schedule 6, page 162, line 36, at end insert—

“(g) the views of the Information Commission on suitability of international transfer of data to the country or organisation.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to seek the views of the Information Commission on whether a country or organisation has met the data protection test for international data transfer in relation to law enforcement processing.

Government amendment 212.

Amendment 231, in schedule 13, page 202, line 33, at end insert—

“(2A) A person may not be appointed under sub-paragraph (2) unless the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee of the House of Commons has endorsed the proposed appointment.”

This amendment would ensure that non-executive members of the Information Commission may not be appointed unless the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee has endorsed the Secretary of State’s proposed appointee.

Government amendments 213 to 216.

John Whittingdale Portrait Sir John Whittingdale
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The current one-size-fits-all, top-down approach to data protection that we inherited from the European Union has led to public confusion, which has impeded the effective use of personal data to drive growth and competition, and to support key innovations. The Bill seizes on a post-Brexit opportunity to build on our existing foundations and create an innovative, flexible and risk-based data protection regime. This bespoke model will unlock the immense possibilities of data use to improve the lives of everyone in the UK, and help make the UK the most innovative society in the world through science and technology.

I want to make it absolutely clear that the Bill will continue to maintain the highest standards of data protection that the British people rightly expect, but it will also help those who use our data to make our lives healthier, safer and more prosperous. That is because we have convened industry leaders and experts to co-design the Bill at every step of the way. We have held numerous roundtables with both industry experts in the field and campaigning groups. The outcome, I believe, is that the legislation will ensure our regulation reflects the way real people live their lives and run their businesses.

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John Whittingdale Portrait Sir John Whittingdale
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I do have a note on interface bodies, which I am happy to include for the benefit of my hon. Friend. However, he will be aware that this is a technical and complicated area. If he wants to pursue a further discussion, I would of course be happy to oblige. I can tell him that the amendments will ensure that smart data schemes can replicate and build on the open banking model by allowing the Government to require interface bodies to be set up by members of the scheme. Interface bodies will play a similar role to that of the open banking implementation entity, developing common standards on arrangements for data sharing. Learning from the lessons and successes of the open banking regime, regulations will be able to specify the responsibilities and requirements for interface bodies and ensure appropriate accountability to regulators. I hope that that goes some way to addressing the point that he makes, but I would be happy to discuss it further with him in due course.

I believe these amendments will generally improve the functioning of the Bill and address some specific concerns that I have identified. On that basis, I commend them to the House.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the shadow Minister.

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I am feeling generous, I shall start with the nice bits where we agree with the Government. First, we completely agree with the changes to the Information Commissioner’s Office, strengthening the ICO’s enforcement powers, restructuring the ICO and providing a clearer framework of objectives. As the Minister knows, we have always been keen to strengthen the independence of the ICO and we were concerned that the Government were taking new interventionist powers—that is quite a theme in this Bill—in clause 33, so we welcome Government amendment 45, which achieves a much better balance between democratic oversight and ICO independence, so we thank the Minister for that.

Labour also welcomes part 2 of the Bill, as amended in Committee, establishing a digital verification framework. My concern, however, is that the Government have underestimated the sheer technicality of such an endeavour, hence the last-minute requirement for tens of Government amendments to this part of the Bill, which I note the Minister keeps on referring to as being very technical and therefore best to be debated in another place at another time with officials present. Under Government amendment 52, for example, different rules will be established for different digital verification services, and I am not quite sure whether that will stand the test of the House of Lords.

We warmly welcome and support part 3 of the Bill, which has just been referred to by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose) and the Minister, and its provisions on smart data. Indeed, we and many industry specialists have been urging the Government to go much faster in this particular area. The potential for introducing smart data schemes is vast, empowering consumers to make financial decisions that better suit them, enabling innovation and delivering better products and services. Most notably, that has already happened in relation to financial services. Many people will not know that that is what they are using when they use a software that is accessing several different bank accounts, but that is what they are doing.

In the autumn statement, the Government pledged to kickstart a smart data big bang. One area where smart data has been most effective is in open finance—it is right that we expand these provisions into new areas to have a greater social impact—but, to quote the Financial Conduct Authority, it should be implemented there

“in a proportionate phased manner, ideally driven by consideration of credible consumer propositions and use-cases.”

Furthermore, the FCA does not think that a big bang approach to open finance is feasible or desirable. Nevertheless, many of the Government amendments to the suite of smart data provisions are technical, and indicate a move in the right direction. In particular, we hope that, with smart data enabling greater access by consumers to information about green options and net zero, we will be able to help the whole of the UK to move towards net zero.

I want to say a few words on part 4, on cookies and nuisance calls. We share a lot of the Government’s intentions on tackling those issues and the births and deaths register. As a former registrar, I would like to see tombstoning—the process of fraudulently adopting for oneself the name of a child who has died—brought to an end. That practice is enabled partly because the deaths register does not actually register the death of an individual named on the births register, which I hope will at some point be possible.

Despite the Government’s having sat on the Bill for almost 18 months, with extensive consultations, drafts, amendments and carry-over motions, there are still big practical holes in these measures that need to be addressed. Labour supports the Government’s ambitions to tackle nuisance calls, which are a blight on people’s lives—we all know that. However, I fear that clause 89, which establishes a duty to notify the ICO of unlawful direct marketing, will make little or no difference without the addition of Labour amendments 7 and 8, which would implement those obligations on electronic communications companies when the guidance from the ICO on their practical application has been clearly established. As the Bill stands, that is little more than wishful thinking.

Unfortunately, the story is the same on tackling cookies. We have a bunch of half-baked measures that simply do not deliver as the public will expect them to and the Government would like them to. We all support reducing cookie fatigue; I am sure that every hon. Member happily clicks “Accept all” whenever cookies comes up—[Interruption.] Well, some Members are much more assiduous than I am in that regard. But the wise Members of the House know perfectly well that the problem is that it undermines the whole purpose of cookies. We all support tackling it because clicking a new cookie banner every time we load a web page is a waste of everybody’s time and is deeply annoying.

However, the Government’s proposed regulation 6B gives the Secretary of State a blank cheque to make provisions as they see fit, without proper parliamentary scrutiny. That is why we are unhappy with it and have tabled amendment 6, which would remove those powers from the Bill as they are simply not ready to enter the statute book. Yet again I make the point that the Bill repeatedly and regularly gives new powers to the Secretary of State. Sure, they would be implemented by secondary legislation—but as we all know, secondary legislation is unamendable and therefore subject to much less scrutiny. These are areas in which the state is taking significant powers over the public and private individuals.

Let me deal with some of the Labour party’s amendments. First, I take subject access requests. The Government have repeatedly been in the wrong place on those, I am afraid, ever since the introduction of the first iteration of the DPDI Bill under Nadine Dorries, when they tried to charge people for access to their own data. Fortunately, that has now gone the way of Nadine Dorries. [Interruption.] I note that the Minister smiled at that point. We still have concerns about the Government’s plans to change the thresholds for refusing subject access requests from “manifestly unfounded or excessive” to “vexatious or excessive”. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, Reset, the TUC and Which? have all outlined their opposition to the change, which threatens to hollow out what the Government themselves admit is a “critical transparency mechanism”.

We have tabled two simple amendments. Amendment 2 would establish an obligation on any data controller refusing a subject access request to provide evidence of why a request has been considered vexatious or excessive. Organisations should not be allowed to just declare that a request is vexatious or excessive and so ascribe a motive to the data subject in order to refuse to provide their data, perhaps simply because of the inconvenience to the organisation.

The Government will try to tell me that safeguards are in place and that the data subject can make appropriate complaints to the organisation and the ICO if they believe that their request has been wrongly refused. But if we take the provisions set out in clause 9 to extend the time limits on subject access requests, add the advantage for companies of dither and delay when considering procedural complaints, and then add the additional burden on a data subject of having to seek out the ICO and produce evidence and an explanation of their request as well as the alleged misapplication of the vexatious or excessive standard, we see that people could easily be waiting years and years before having the right to access their own data. I cannot believe that, in the end, that is in the interests of good government or that it is really what the Government want.

Despite public opposition to the measures, the Government are also now going further by introducing at this stage amendments that further water down subject access request protections. Government new clauses 7 and 9, which the Minister did not refer to—in fact, he only mentioned, I think, a bare tenth of the amendments he wants us to agree this afternoon—limit a data subject’s entitlement to their own data to the controller’s ability to conduct a “reasonable and proportionate” search. But what is reasonable and proportionate? Who determines what has been a reasonable and proportionate search? The new clauses drive a coach and horses through the rights of people to access their own data and to know who is doing what with their information. That is why Labour does not support the changes.

I come to one of the most important issues for us: high-risk processing, which, as the term suggests, is of most concern when it comes to the rights of individuals. I was pleased but perplexed to see that the Government tabled amendments to new clause 30 that added further clarity about the changed provisions to record keeping for the purposes of high-risk processing. I was pleased because it is right that safeguards should be in place when data processing is deemed to be of high risk, but I was perplexed because the Government do not define high-risk processing in the Bill—in fact, they have removed the existing standard for high-risk processing from existing GDPR, thereby leaving a legislative lacuna for the ICO to fill in. That should not be up to the ICO. I know that the ICO himself thinks that it should not be up to him, but a matter for primary legislation.

Our amendment 1 retains a statutory definition of high-risk processing as recommended by the ICO in his response to the Bill, published in May. He said:

“the detail in Article 35 (3) was a helpful and clear legislative backstop.”

That is why he supports what we are suggesting. Our amendment 4 would also clarify those individual rights even further, by again providing the necessary definition of what constitutes high risk, within the new provisions concerning the responsibilities of senior responsible individuals for data processing set out in clause 15.

I turn to automated decision making, which has the potential to deliver increasingly personalised and efficient services, to increase productivity, and to reduce administrative hurdles. While most of the world is making it harder to make decisions exclusively using ADM, clause 12 in the Bill extends the potential for automated decision making in the UK. Yet countless research projects have shown that automated decision making and machine decision making are not as impartial or blind as they sound. Algorithms can harbour and enhance inbuilt prejudices and injustices. Of course we cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the technology will not be implemented or that we can legislate it out of use; we should be smart about ADM and try to unlock its potential while mitigating its potential dangers. Where people’s livelihoods are at risk or where decisions are going to have a significant impact, it is essential that extra protections are in place allowing individuals to contest decisions and secure human review as a fundamental backstop.

Our amendment 5 strikes a better balance by extending the safeguarding provisions to include significant decisions that are based both partly and solely on automated processing; I am very hopeful that the Government will accept our amendment. That means greater safeguards for anybody subject to an automated decision-making process, however that decision is made. It cannot just be a matter of “the computer says no.”

I think the Minister is slightly surprised that we are concerned about democratic engagement, but I will explain. The Bill introduces several changes to electoral practices under the guise of what the Government call “democratic engagement”, most notably through clauses 86 and 87. The former means that any political party or elected representative could engage in direct marketing relying on a soft opt-in procedure, while clause 87 allows the Secretary of State to make any future exemptions and changes to direct marketing rules for the very unspecified purposes of “democratic engagement”.

The Ada Lovelace Institute and the Internet Advertising Bureau have raised concerns about that, and in Committee Labour asked the Minister what the Government had in mind. He rather gave the game away when he wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock), to whom I pay tribute for the way she took the Bill through the Committee:

“A future government may want to encourage democratic engagement in the run up to an election by temporarily ‘switching off’ some of the direct marketing rules.”

Switching off the rules ahead of an election—does anyone else smell a rat?

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I say to those in the other place as well as to those on the Front Benches that we have not been able to go through this in detail, but we should think about it incredibly hard. It might seem an esoteric and arcane matter, but it is not. People might not currently be interested in the ins and out of how AI and data work, but in future you can bet your bottom dollar that AI and data will be interested in them. I urge the Government to work with us to get this right.
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I have now to announce the result of today’s deferred Division on the Draft Strikes (Minimum Service Levels: NHS Ambulance Services and the NHS Patient Transport Service) Regulations 2023. The Ayes were 297 and the Noes were 166, so the Ayes have it.

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]

Stephen Timms Portrait Sir Stephen Timms
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I rise to speak specifically to Government new clause 34 and connected Government amendments which, as we have been reminded, give Ministers power to inspect the bank accounts of anyone claiming a social security benefit. I think it has been confirmed that that includes child benefit and the state pension, as well as universal credit and all the others. Extremely wide powers are being given to Ministers.

The Minister told us that the measure is expected to save some half a billion pounds over the next five years. I was pleased that the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work was present at the start of the debate, although he is not now in his place and the Department for Work and Pensions is not hearing the concerns expressed about this measure. The Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure told us that the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work will not be not speaking in the debate, so we will not hear what the DWP thinks about these concerns.

We have also been told—I had not seen this assurance—that these powers will not be used for a few years. If that is correct, I am completely mystified by why this is being done in such a way. If we had a few years to get these powers in place, why did the Government not wait until there was some appropriate draft legislation that could be properly scrutinised, rather than bringing such measures forward now with zero Commons scrutiny and no opportunity for that to occur? There will no doubt be scrutiny in the other place, but surely a measure of this kind ought to undergo scrutiny in this House.

I chair the Work and Pensions Committee and we have received substantial concerns about this measure, including from Citizens Advice. The Child Poverty Action Group said that

“it shouldn’t be that people have fewer rights, including to privacy, than everyone else in the UK simply because they are on benefits.”

I think that sums up what a lot of people feel, although it appears to be the position that the Government are now taking. It is surprising that the Conservative party is bringing forward such a major expansion of state powers to pry into the affairs of private citizens, and particularly doing so in such a way that we are not able to scrutinise what it is planning. As we have been reminded, the state has long had powers where there were grounds for suspecting that benefit fraud had been committed. The proposal in the Bill is for surveillance where there is absolutely no suspicion at all, which is a substantial expansion of the state’s powers to intrude.

Annabel Denham, deputy comment editor at The Daily Telegraph warned in The Spectator of such a measure handing

“authorities the power to snoop on people’s bank accounts.”

I suspect that the views expressed there are more likely to find support on the Conservative Benches than on the Labour Benches, so I am increasingly puzzled by why the Government think this is an appropriate way to act. I wonder whether the fact that there have been such warnings prompted Ministers into rushing through the measure in this deeply unsatisfactory way, without an opportunity for proper scrutiny, because they thought that if there had been parliamentary scrutiny there would be substantial opposition from the Conservative Benches as well as from the Labour Benches. It is difficult to understand otherwise why it is being done in this way.

As we have been reminded, new clause 34 will give the Government the right to inspect the bank account of anyone who claims a state pension, which is all of us. It will give the Government the right to look into the bank account of every single one of us at some point during our lives, without suspecting that we have ever done anything wrong, and without telling us that they are doing it. The Minister said earlier that the powers of the state should be limited to those absolutely necessary, and I have always understood that to be a principle of the Conservative party. Yet on the power in the new clause to look into the bank account of everybody claiming a state pension, he was unable to give us any reason why the Government should do such a thing, or why they would ever need to look into the bank accounts of people—everybody—claiming a state pension. What on earth would the Government need to do that for? The entitlement to the state pension is not based on income, savings or anything like that, so why would the Government ever wish to do that?

If we cannot think of a reason why the Government would want to do that, why are they now taking the power to enable them to do so? I think that all of us would agree, whatever party we are in, that the powers of the state should be limited to those absolutely necessary. The power in the new clause is definitely not absolutely necessary. Indeed, no one has been able to come up with any reason for why it would ever be used.

Media Bill

Rosie Winterton Excerpts
2nd reading
Tuesday 21st November 2023

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman
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I agree. We do not regret or feel angry at the Welsh language programming that is provided and the support for it. As my right hon. Friend said, we are looking for parity, and the index-linking of funding is important. We also need to recognise that the Scottish Government are already providing significant funding for the Gaelic language and to MG Alba, but there is no parity in terms of the licence fee.

I have a few other things I wish to say. Sadly, the Bill finally says goodbye to teletext; it is the end of teletext as we know it. It has not been in use since 2009, but the Bill finally removes it from legislation.

I also wish to talk about football games and how broadcasting and listing works. Listing is the particular concern. The Secretary of State said that the listing system is being revamped—I am not sure exactly what word she used but that was the direction she intended. However, the listing system itself—the way in which category A and category B listings are chosen—is not being revamped. No change is being made to that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) is unwell and unable to take part in today’s debate, but he has done a huge amount of work on trying to ensure that we can access Scottish football games. It is incredibly important that we can see Scottish football games in Scotland. The Broadcasting Act 1996 says:

“’national interest’ includes interest within England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.”

It does not say, “England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”; it says “or Northern Ireland”. Given how popular Scotland’s football team is in Scotland, its games should be classed of national importance, especially as we have finally made it to the finals of a tournament. That is wonderful and we want to be able to see those games. It is not fair that viewers in Scotland have to pay to see their national team play, whereas viewers everywhere else in the UK do not have to pay for the same privilege. This issue is important. I note the point that the shadow Secretary of State made about the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s digital rights enabling provision, and I agree that if enabling provisions could be made on digital rights for sports events, that would be an important move.

I have a couple more issues to raise. The first is on-demand services and the inclusion of the 30-day requirement. Unfortunately, the Bill does not make it clear whether that means 30 consecutive days. It is important that the word “consecutive” be added unless precedent in other legislation suggests that “30 days” means 30 consecutive days. Why is news excluded from that provision? The right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) spoke about the economic and cultural importance of our media, but we must consider its democratic importance in ensuring that knowledge is spread. I do not understand why the Minister and the Secretary of State have chosen to exclude news from this 30-day requirement on digital provision. The other thing that could have been clearer is ensuring that some of the provision is accessible. I know that the BBC has worked hard on this, but we are not there yet, as some of the local news that is provided is nearly impossible to find. If I want to watch Aberdeen-specific news, or even Scotland-specific news, it is hard to find it and disentangle it from more national news. Accessibility is required in that regard.

This legislation provides for quite a lot of delegated powers. I have not managed to make my way through all of them, but using the affirmative procedure often strikes the right balance. Using the draft affirmative procedure for a significant amount of the delegated powers in this Bill is important.

I am pleased that we have the Bill. I am concerned about the lack of futureproofing in some of it and about the overcomplication, as some of the definitions are difficult to follow and therefore may not achieve what the Government intend. The cultural sector is incredibly important to the entirety of the UK. It is incredibly important in Scotland, and we certainly will not oppose the Media Bill as it goes forward.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Gambling Act Review White Paper

Rosie Winterton Excerpts
Thursday 27th April 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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I thank the shadow Minister for her comments. The shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), made her apologies to me, for which I am grateful; I understand the reasons for her absence.

I am pleased that the shadow Minister said that we need to update the rules, and that the measures will have cross-party support. I very much look forward to working with the shadow Front Benchers on this matter, which is so important. She mentioned the delay; I would reiterate a number of points, including the fact that we have taken measures over the past few years, including cutting the stakes for fixed odds betting terminals, banning credit card gambling, reforming online VIP schemes and introducing new limits to make online slots safer. She will know that I have been in post only two and a half months, but this has been a priority for me. I have brought this White Paper in with some speed and timeliness, I would say, and she can be confident that we will continue to ensure that these measures make it into the necessary regulations. We are bringing many of them through via statutory instrument, which will speed up the process, and I very much look forward to the co-operation of those on the Opposition Front Bench in ensuring that we can do so as soon as possible.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Damian Green Portrait Damian Green (Ashford) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on finally—finally—getting this White Paper published. I particularly welcome the introduction of the statutory levy, which she will know has great support in all parts of the House. The most disturbing fact I have learned in preparing for the Select Committee’s upcoming investigation into gambling is that at this moment there are something like 50,000 children in this country who are problem gamblers. That is a truly shocking figure. Can she expand more on the essential measures in her proposals that will protect children from this terrible scourge?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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My right hon. Friend makes some important points. I think all of us across this House want to ensure that we protect children. That is why, in addition to measures already in place, such as ensuring that there is no advertising targeted towards children, there are a number of new measures in the proposals, including the voluntary ban on gambling advertising on football shirts, but not limited to that. As I mentioned, we are ensuring that monetary gambling is illegal until the age of 18. We will be making it illegal for children to use scratchcards or slots that produce cash. The statutory levy he mentions is also important, because through that levy we can continue to look at research on how gambling affects children and take any necessary measures in due course.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
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I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement. We have consistently encouraged and pressed the Government for action in this area and, as other right hon. and hon. Members have said, a dozen Ministers responsible for gambling have come and gone since change was first promised. The 2005 Act is clearly out of date and grows less relevant to modern gambling realities by the day. Those vulnerable to harm, especially children, are not well protected under the current legislation.

My party and I will approach this important discussion with constructive dialogue to support evidence-led legislation from the outset. Will the Secretary of State outline the precise role of the ombudsman, especially when it comes to protecting children? I know that hon. Members on all sides are deeply concerned by the huge rise in gambling among children. We know that gambling destroys lives. I pay tribute to the many charity workers and others who have pressed for these changes, including hon. Members across the House—particularly, on the SNP Benches, my hon. Friend the Member for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan), who has worked tirelessly on this. We will work constructively with the Government in assessing the right way forward to protect the vulnerable from harm.

[Relevant documents: Second Report of the Petitions Committee of Session 2021-22, Tackling Online Abuse, HC 766, and the Government response, HC 1224; Letter from the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee to the Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy regarding Pornography and its impact on VAWG, dated 13 June 2022; Letter from the Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy to the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee regarding Pornography and its impact on VAWG, dated 30 August 2022; e-petition 272087, Hold online trolls accountable for their online abuse via their IP address; e-petition 332315, Ban anonymous accounts on social media; e-petition 575833, Make verified ID a requirement for opening a social media account; e-petition 582423, Repeal Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 and expunge all convictions; e-petition 601932, Do not restrict our right to freedom of expression online.]
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Before we open the debate, I want to make a brief comment about the scope of today’s debate. Today’s debate on consideration follows the re-committal of the Bill to a Public Bill Committee in December last year. We are therefore debating today only the new clauses and amendments listed on the selection paper issued today. These are either: new clauses relating to the re-committed clauses and schedules; amendments to those clauses and schedules; or amendments to other parts of the Bill consequential on changes made to the Bill on re-committal in the Public Bill Committee.

On 5 December, the House finished its consideration on report of other parts of the Bill. The scope of today’s report stage generally does not include those parts of the Bill that were not re-committed. The exception is where amendments on the selection paper are consequential to the changes made to re-committed clauses, and relate to clauses that were not re-committed. Should there be time for debate on Third Reading, it is of course permissible to speak then to any of the content of the Bill.

I should also remind the House that, because of the time taken for the emergency debate, proceedings on consideration are now scheduled to finish at 8.13 pm and proceedings on Third Reading at 9.13 pm.

New Clause 1

Report on redress for individual complaints

‘(1) The Secretary of State must publish a report assessing options for dealing with appeals about complaints made under section 17 of this Act.

(2) The report must—

(a) provide a general update on the fulfilment of duties about complaints procedures which apply in relation to all regulated user-to-user services;

(b) assess which body should be responsible for a system to deal with appeals in cases where a complainant considers that a complaint has not been satisfactorily dealt with; and

(c) provide options for how the system should be funded, including consideration of whether an annual surcharge could be imposed on user-to-user services.

(3) The report must be laid before Parliament within six months of the commencement of section 17.’—(Alex Davies- Jones.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab)
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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2—Offence of failing to comply with a relevant duty

‘(1) The provider of a service to whom a relevant duty applies commits an offence if the provider fails to comply with the duty.

(2) In the application of sections 178(2) and 179(5) to an offence under this section (where the offence has been committed with the consent or connivance of an officer of the entity or is attributable to any neglect on the part of an officer of the entity) the references in those provisions to an officer of an entity include references to any person who, at the time of the commission of the offence—

(a) was (within the meaning of section 93) a senior manager of the entity in relation to the activities of the entity in the course of which the offence was committed; or

(b) was a person purporting to act in such a capacity.

(3) A person who commits an offence under this section is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine (or both).

(4) In this section, “relevant duty” means a duty provided for by section 11 of this Act.’

This new clause makes it an offence for the provider of a user-to-service not to comply with the safety duties protecting children set out in clause 11. Where the offence is committed with the consent or connivance of a senior manager or other officer of the provider, or is attributable to their neglect, the officer, as well as the entity, is guilty of the offence.

New clause 3—Child user empowerment duties

‘(1) This section sets out the duties to empower child users which apply in relation to Category 1 services.

(2) A duty to include in a service, to the extent that it is proportionate to do so, features which child users may use or apply if they wish to increase their control over harmful content.

(3) The features referred to in subsection (2) are those which, if used or applied by a user, result in the use by the service of systems or processes designed to—

(a) reduce the likelihood of the user encountering priority content that is harmful, or particular kinds of such content, by means of the service, or

(b) alert the user to the harmful nature of priority content that is harmful that the user may encounter by means of the service.

(4) A duty to ensure that all features included in a service in compliance with the duty set out in subsection (2) are made available to all child users.

(5) A duty to include clear and accessible provisions in the terms of service specifying which features are offered in compliance with the duty set out in subsection (2), and how users may take advantage of them.

(6) A duty to include in a service features which child users may use or apply if they wish to filter out non-verified users.

(7) The features referred to in subsection (6) are those which, if used or applied by a user, result in the use by the service of systems or processes designed to—

(a) prevent non-verified users from interacting with content which that user generates, uploads or shares on the service, and

(b) reduce the likelihood of that user encountering content which non-verified users generate, upload or share on the service.

(8) A duty to include in a service features which child users may use or apply if they wish to only encounter content by users they have approved.

(9) A duty to include in a service features which child users may use or apply if they wish to filter out private messages from—

(a) non-verified users, or

(b) adult users, or

(c) any user other than those on a list approved by the child user.

(10) In determining what is proportionate for the purposes of subsection (2), the following factors, in particular, are relevant—

(a) all the findings of the most recent child risk assessment (including as to levels of risk and as to nature, and severity, of potential harm), and

(b) the size and capacity of the provider of a service.

(11) In this section “non-verified user” means a user who has not verified their identity to the provider of a service (see section 57(1)).

(12) In this section references to features include references to functionalities and settings.’

New clause 4—Safety duties protecting adults and society: minimum standards for terms of service

‘(1) OFCOM may set minimum standards for the provisions included in a provider’s terms of service as far as they relate to the duties under sections 11, [Harm to adults and society risk assessment duties], [Safety duties protecting adults and society], 12, 16 to 19 and 28 of this Act (“relevant duties”).

(2) Where a provider does not meet the minimum standards, OFCOM may direct the provider to amend its terms of service in order to ensure that the standards are met.

(3) OFCOM must, at least once a year, conduct a review of—

(a) the extent to which providers are meeting the minimum standards, and

(b) how the providers’ terms of service are enabling them to fulfil the relevant duties.

(4) The report must assess whether any provider has made changes to its terms of service that might affect the way it fulfils a relevant duty.

(5) OFCOM must lay a report on the first review before both Houses of Parliament within one year of this Act being passed.

(6) OFCOM must lay a report on each subsequent review at least once a year thereafter.’

New clause 5—Harm to adult and society risk assessment duties

‘(1) This section sets out the duties about risk assessments which apply in relation to Category 1 services (in addition to the duties about risk assessments set out in section 8 and, in the case of Category 1 services likely to be accessed by children, section 10).

(2) A duty to carry out a suitable and sufficient harm to adults and society risk assessment at a time set out in, or as provided by, Schedule 3.

(3) A duty to take appropriate steps to keep an harm to adults and society risk assessment up to date, including when OFCOM make any significant change to a risk profile that relates to services of the kind in question.

(4) Before making any significant change to any aspect of a service’s design or operation, a duty to carry out a further suitable and sufficient harm to adults and society risk assessment relating to the impacts of that proposed change.

(5) A “harm to adults and society risk assessment” of a service of a particular kind means an assessment of the following matters, taking into account the risk profile that relates to services of that kind—

(a) the user base;

(b) the level of risk of adults who are users of the service encountering, by means of the service, each kind of priority content that is harmful to adults and society (with each kind separately assessed), taking into account (in particular) algorithms used by the service, and how easily, quickly and widely content may be disseminated by means of the service;

(c) the level of risk of harm to adults and society presented by different kinds of priority content that is harmful to adults and society;

(d) the level of risk of harm to adults and society presented by priority content that is harmful to adults and society which particularly affects individuals with a certain characteristic or members of a certain group;

(e) the level of risk of functionalities of the service facilitating the presence or dissemination of priority content that is harmful to adults and society, identifying and assessing those functionalities that present higher levels of risk;

(f) the different ways in which the service is used, and the impact of such use on the level of risk of harm that might be suffered by adults and society;

(g) the nature, and severity, of the harm that might be suffered by adults and society from the matters identified in accordance with paragraphs (b) to (f);

(h) how the design and operation of the service (including the business model, governance, use of proactive technology, measures to promote users’ media literacy and safe use of the service, and other systems and processes) may reduce or increase the risks identified.

(6) In this section references to risk profiles are to the risk profiles for the time being published under section 85 which relate to the risk of harm to adults and society presented by priority content that is harmful to adults and society.

(7) See also—

(a) section 19(2) (records of risk assessments), and

(b) Schedule 3 (timing of providers’ assessments).’

New clause 6—Safety duties protecting adults and society

‘(1) This section sets out the duties to prevent harms to adults and society which apply in relation to Category 1 services.

(2) A duty to summarise in the terms of service the findings of the most recent adults and society risk assessment of a service (including as to levels of risk and as to nature, and severity, of potential harm to adults and society).

(3) If a provider decides to treat a kind of priority content that is harmful to adults and society in a way described in subsection (4), a duty to include provisions in the terms of service specifying how that kind of content is to be treated (separately covering each kind of priority content that is harmful to adults and society which a provider decides to treat in one of those ways).

(4) These are the kinds of treatment of content referred to in subsection (3)—

(a) taking down the content;

(b) restricting users’ access to the content;

(c) limiting the recommendation or promotion of the content;

(d) recommending or promoting the content;

(e) allowing the content without treating it in a way described in any of paragraphs (a) to (d).

(5) A duty to explain in the terms of service the provider’s response to the risks relating to priority content that is harmful to adults and society (as identified in the most recent adults and society risk assessment of the service), by reference to—

(a) any provisions of the terms of service included in compliance with the duty set out in subsection (3), and

(b) any other provisions of the terms of service designed to mitigate or manage those risks.

(6) If provisions are included in the terms of service in compliance with the duty set out in subsection (3), a duty to ensure that those provisions—

(a) are clear and accessible, and

(b) are applied consistently.

(7) If the provider of a service becomes aware of any non-designated content that is harmful to adults and society present on the service, a duty to notify OFCOM of—

(a) the kinds of such content identified, and

(b) the incidence of those kinds of content on the service.

(8) In this section—

“harm to adults and society risk assessment” has the meaning given by section [harm to adults and society risk assessment duties];

“non-designated content that is harmful to adults and society” means content that is harmful to adults and society other than priority content that is harmful to adults and society.

(9) See also, in relation to duties set out in this section, section 18 (duties about freedom of expression and privacy).’

New clause 7—“Content that is harmful to adults and society” etc

‘(1) This section applies for the purposes of this Part.

(2) “Priority content that is harmful to adults and society” means content of a description designated in regulations made by the Secretary of State as priority content that is harmful to adults and society.

(3) “Content that is harmful to adults and society” means—

(a) priority content that is harmful to adults and society, or

(b) content, not within paragraph (a), of a kind which presents a material risk of significant harm to an appreciable number of adults in the United Kingdom.

(4) For the purposes of this section—

(a) illegal content (see section 53) is not to be regarded as within subsection (3)(b), and

(b) content is not to be regarded as within subsection (3)(b) if the risk of harm flows from—

(i) the content’s potential financial impact,

(ii) the safety or quality of goods featured in the content, or

(iii) the way in which a service featured in the content may be performed (for example, in the case of the performance of a service by a person not qualified to perform it).

(5) References to “priority content that is harmful to adults and society” and “content that is harmful to adults and society” are to be read as—

(a) limited to content within the definition in question that is regulated user-generated content in relation to a regulated user-to-user service, and

(b) including material which, if it were present on a regulated user-to-user service, would be content within paragraph (a) (and this section is to be read with such modifications as may be necessary for the purpose of this paragraph).

(6) Sections 55 and 56 contain further provision about regulations made under this section.’

Government amendments 1 to 4.

Amendment 44, clause 11, page 10, line 17, , at end insert ‘, and—

“(c) mitigate the harm to children caused by habit-forming features of the service by consideration and analysis of how processes (including algorithmic serving of content, the display of other users’ approval of posts and notifications) contribute to development of habit-forming behaviour.”’

Amendment 82, page 10, line 25, at end insert—

‘(3A) Content under subsection (3) includes content that may result in serious harm or death to a child while crossing the English Channel with the aim of entering the United Kingdom in a vessel unsuited or unsafe for those purposes.’

This amendment would require proportionate systems and processes, including removal of content, to be in place to control the access by young people to material which encourages them to undertake dangerous Channel crossings where their lives could be lost.

Amendment 83, page 10, line 25, at end insert—

‘(3A) Content promoting self-harm, including content promoting eating disorders, must be considered as harmful.’

Amendment 84, page 10, line 25, at end insert—

‘(3A) Content which advertises or promotes the practice of so-called conversion practices of LGBTQ+ individuals must be considered as harmful for the purposes of this section.’

Amendment 45, page 10, line 36, leave out paragraph (d) and insert—

‘(d) policies on user access to the service, parts of the service, or to particular content present on the service, including blocking users from accessing the service, parts of the service, or particular content,’.

Amendment 47, page 10, line 43, at end insert ‘, and

“(i) reducing or removing a user’s access to livestreaming features.”’

Amendment 46, page 10, line 43, at end insert ‘, and

“(i) reducing or removing a user’s access to private messaging features.”’

Amendment 48, page 11, line 25, after ‘accessible’ insert ‘for child users.’

Amendment 43, clause 12, page 12, line 24, leave out ‘made available to’ and insert

‘in operation by default for’.

Amendment 52, page 12, line 30, after ‘non-verified users’ insert

‘and to enable them to see whether another user is verified or non-verified.’

This amendment would require Category 1 services to make visible to users whether another user is verified or non-verified.

Amendment 49, page 12, line 30, at end insert—

‘(6A) A duty to ensure features and provisions in subsections (2), (4) and (6) are accessible and understandable to adult users with learning disabilities.’

Amendment 53, page 12, line 32, after ‘to’ insert ‘effectively’.

This amendment would bring this subsection into line with subsection (3) by requiring that the systems or processes available to users for the purposes described in subsections (7)(a) and (7)(b) should be effective.

Amendment 55, page 18, line 15, at end insert—

‘(4A) Content that is harmful to adults and society.’

Amendment 56, clause 17, page 20, line 10, leave out subsection (6) and insert—

‘(6) The following kinds of complaint are relevant for Category 1 services—

(a) complaints by users and affected persons about content present on a service which they consider to be content that is harmful to adults and society;

(b) complaints by users and affected persons if they consider that the provider is not complying with a duty set out in—

(i) section [adults and society online safety]

(ii) section 12 (user empowerment),

(iii) section 13 (content of democratic importance),

(iv) section 14 (news publisher content),

(v) section 15 (journalistic content), or

(vi) section 18(4), (6) or (7) (freedom of expression and privacy);

(c) complaints by a user who has generated, uploaded or shared content on a service if that content is taken down, or access to it is restricted, on the basis that it is content that is harmful to adults and society;

(d) complaints by a user of a service if the provider has given a warning to the user, suspended or banned the user from using the service, or in any other way restricted the user’s ability to use the service, as a result of content generated, uploaded or shared by the user which the provider considers to be content that is harmful to adults and society.’

Amendment 57, clause 19, page 21, line 40, leave out ‘or 10’ and insert

‘, 10 or [harms to adults and society risk assessment duties]’.

Amendment 58, page 22, line 37, at end insert—

‘(ba) section [adults and society online safety] (adults and society online safety),’

Government amendment 5.

Amendment 59, clause 44, page 44, line 11, at end insert

‘or

(ba) section [adults and society online safety] (adults and society online safety);’

Government amendment 6.

Amendment 60, clause 55, page 53, line 43, at end insert—

‘(2A) The Secretary of State may specify a description of content in regulations under section [“Content that is harmful to adult and society” etc](2) (priority content that is harmful to adults and society) only if the Secretary of State considers that, in relation to regulated user-to-user services, there is a material risk of significant harm to an appreciable number of adults presented by content of that description that is regulated user-generated content.’

Amendment 61, page 53, line 45, after ‘54’ insert

‘or [“Content that is harmful to adults and society” etc]’.

Amendment 62, page 54, line 8, after ‘54’ insert

‘or [“Content that is harmful to adults and society” etc]’.

Amendment 63, page 54, line 9, leave out ‘are to children’ and insert

‘or adults are to children or adults and society’.

Government amendments 7 to 16.

Amendment 77, clause 94, page 85, line 42, after ‘10’ insert

‘, [Adults and society risk assessment duties]’.

Amendment 78, page 85, line 44, at end insert—

‘(iiia) section [Adults and society online safety] (adults and society online safety);’

Amendment 54, clause 119, page 102, line 22, at end insert—

‘Section [Safety duties protecting adults and society: minimum standards for terms of service]

Minimum standards for terms of service’



Amendment 79, page 102, line 22, at end insert—

‘Section [Harm to adults and society assessments]

Harm to adults and society risk assessments

Section [Adults and society online safety]

Adults and society online safety’



Government amendments 17 to 19.

Amendment 51, clause 207, page 170, line 42, after ‘including’ insert ‘but not limited to’.

Government amendments 20 to 23.

Amendment 81, clause 211, page 177, line 3, leave out ‘and 55’ and insert

‘, [“Content that is harmful to adults and society” etc] and 55’.

Government amendments 24 to 42.

Amendment 64, schedule 8, page 207, line 13, leave out ‘relevant content’ and insert

‘priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 65, page 207, line 15, leave out ‘relevant content’ and insert

‘priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 66, page 207, line 17, leave out ‘relevant content’ and insert

‘priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 67, page 207, line 21, leave out ‘relevant content’ and insert

‘content that is harmful to adults and society, or other content which they consider breaches the terms of service.’

Amendment 68, page 207, line 23, leave out ‘relevant content’ and insert

‘priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 69, page 207, line 26, leave out ‘relevant content’ and insert

‘priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 70, page 208, line 2, leave out

‘or content that is harmful to children’

and insert

‘content that is harmful to children or priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 71, page 208, line 10, leave out

‘and content that is harmful to children’

and insert

‘content that is harmful to children and priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 72, page 208, line 13, leave out

“and content that is harmful to children”

and insert

‘content that is harmful to children and priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 73, page 210, line 2, at end insert

‘“content that is harmful to adults and society” and “priority content that is harmful to adults and society” have the same meaning as in section [“Content that is harmful to adults and society” etc]’.

Amendment 50, schedule 11, page 217, line 31, at end insert—

‘(1A) Regulations made under sub-paragraph (1) must provide for any regulated user-to-user service which OFCOM assesses as posing a very high risk of harm to be included within Category 1, regardless of the number of users.’

Amendment 74, page 218, line 24, leave out

‘and content that is harmful to children’

and insert

‘content that is harmful to children and priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 75, page 219, line 6, leave out

‘and content that is harmful to children’

and insert

‘content that is harmful to children and priority content that is harmful to adults and society’.

Amendment 76, page 221, line 24, at end insert—

‘“priority content that is harmful to adults and society” has the same meaning as in section [“Content that is harmful to adults and society” etc]’.

Amendment 80, page 240, line 35, in schedule 17, at end insert—

‘(ba) section [Harm to adults and society assessments] (Harm to adults and society assessments), and’.

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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I have noticed that some people are standing who may not have applied earlier. If anybody is aware of that, can they let me know, and I can adjust timings accordingly? At the moment, my estimate is that if everybody takes no longer than seven minutes, and perhaps more like six, we can get everybody in comfortably without having to impose a time limit.

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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I remind hon. Members about the six-minute advisory time limit.

Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con)
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It is a great relief to see the Online Safety Bill finally reach this stage. It seems like a long time since my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Sir Jeremy Wright) kicked it off with the ambitious aim of making the UK the safest place in the world to be online. Although other countries around the world had picked at the edges of it, we were truly the first country in the world to set out comprehensive online safety legislation. Since then, other jurisdictions have started and, in some cases, concluded this work. As one of the relay of Ministers who have carried this particular baton of legislation on its very long journey, I know we are tantalising close to getting to the finish line. That is why we need to focus on that today, and I am really grateful to the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) for confirming that the Opposition are going to support the Bill on Third Reading.

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Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this, because we do need the Bill to be future-proofed to deal with some of the recently emerging threats to women and others that the online world has offered.

The potential threat of online harms is everyday life for most children in the modern world. Before Christmas, I received an email from my son’s school highlighting a TikTok challenge encouraging children to strangle each other until they passed out. This challenge probably did not start on TikTok, and it certainly is not exclusive to the platform, but when my children were born I never envisaged a day when I would have to sit them down and warn them about the potential dangers of allowing someone else to throttle them until they passed out. It is terrifying. Our children need this legislation.

I welcome the Government support for amendment 84 to clause 11, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns), to ban content that advertises so-called conversion therapies for LGBTQ+ people. Someone’s sexuality and who they love is not something to be cured, and unscrupulous crooks should not be able to profit from pushing young people towards potentially sinister and harmful treatments.

I really sympathise with the aims behind new clause 2, on senior executive liability. It is vital that this regime has the teeth to protect children and hold companies to account. I know the 10% of annual global turnover maximum fine is higher than some of the global comparisons, and certainly having clear personal consequences for those responsible for enforcing the law is an incentive for them to do it properly, but there is clearly a balance to strike. We must make sure that sanctions are proportionate and targeted, and do not make the UK a less attractive place to build a digital business. I am really pleased to hear Ministers’ commitment to a final amendment that will strike that really important balance.

I am concerned about the removal of measures on legal but harmful content. I understand the complexity of defining them, but other measures, including the so-called triple shield, do not offer the same protections for vulnerable adults or avoid the cliff edge when someone reaches the age of 18. That particularly concerns me for adults with special educational needs or disabilities. The key point here is that, if the tragic cases of Molly Russell and dozens of young people like her teach us anything, it is that dreadful, harmful online content cannot be defined strictly by what is illegal, because algorithms do not differentiate between harmful and harmless content. They see a pattern and they exploit it.

We often talk about the parallels between the online and offline world—we say that what is illegal online should be illegal offline, and vice versa—but in reality the two worlds are fundamentally different. In the real world, for a young person struggling with an eating disorder or at risk of radicalisation, their inner demons are not reinforced by everyone they meet on the street, but algorithms are echo chambers. They take our fears and our paranoia, and they surround us with unhealthy voices that normalise and validate them, however dangerous and however hateful, glamorising eating disorders, accelerating extremist, racist and antisemitic views and encouraging violent misogyny on incel sites.

That is why I worry that the opt-out option suggested in the Bill simply does not offer enough protection: the lines between what is legal and illegal are too opaque. Sadly, it feels as though this part of the Bill has become the lightning rod for those who think it will result in an overly censorious approach. However, we are where we are. As the Molly Rose Foundation said, the swift implementation of the Bill must now be the priority. Time is no longer on our side, and while we perfect this vast, complicated and inherently imperfect legislation, the most unspeakable content is allowed to proliferate in the online world every single day.

Finally, I put on record the exhaustive efforts made by the incredible team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office, who brought this Bill to fruition. If there was ever an example of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, this is it, and right now we need to get this done. The stakes in human terms simply could not be any higher.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the SNP spokesperson, Kirsty Blackman.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the hon. Member for Gosport (Dame Caroline Dinenage) on what was one of the best speeches on this Bill—and we have heard quite a lot. It was excellent and very thoughtful. I will speak to a number of amendments. I will not cover the Labour amendments in any detail because, as ever, the Labour Front Benchers did an excellent job of that. The right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) covered nicely the amendment on liability, and brought up the issue of hate, particularly when pointed towards the Jewish community. I thank her for consistently bringing that up. It is important to hear her voice and others on this issue.

Amendment 43 was tabled by me and my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (John Nicolson) and it regards a default toggle for material that we all agree is unsafe or harmful. The Labour party has said that it agrees with the amendment, and the SNP believes that the safest option should be the default option. We should start from a point of view that if anybody wants to see eating disorder content, or racist or incredibly harmful content that does not meet the bar of illegality, they should have to opt in to receive it. They should not see it by default; they should have to make that choice to see such content.

Freedom of speech is written into the Bill. People can say whatever they want as long as it is below that bar of illegality, but we should not have to read it. We should not have to read abuse that is pointed toward minority groups. We should start from the position of having the safest option on. We are trying to improve the permissive approach that the Government have arrived at, and this simple change is not controversial. It would require users to flip a switch if they want to opt in to some of the worst and most dangerous content available online, including pro-suicide, pro-anorexia or pro-bulimia content, rather than leaving that switch on by default.

If the Government want the terms and conditions to be the place where things are excluded or included, I think platforms should have to say, “We are happy to have pro-bulimia or pro-anorexia content.” They should have to make that clear and explicit in their terms of service, rather than having to say, “We do not allow x, y and z.” They should have to be clear, up front and honest with people, because then people would know what they are signing up to when they sign up to a website.

Amendment 44 is on habit forming features, and we have not spoken enough about the habit forming nature of social media in particular. Sites such as TikTok, Instagram and Facebook are set up to encourage people to spend time on them. They make money by encouraging people to spend as much time on them as possible—that is the intention behind them. We know that 42% of respondents to a survey by YoungMinds reported displaying signs of addiction-like behaviour when questioned about their social media habits. Young people are worried about that, and they do not necessarily have the tools to avoid it. We therefore tabled amendment 44 to take that into account, and to require platforms to consider that important issue.

New clause 3, on child user empowerment, was mentioned earlier. There is a bizarre loophole in the Bill requiring user empowerment toggles for adults but not for children. It is really odd not to require them for children when we know that they will be able to see some of this content and access features that are much more inherently dangerous to them than to adults. That is why we tabled amendments on private messaging features and live streaming features.

Live streaming is a place where self-generated child sexual abuse has shot through the roof. With child user empowerment, children would have to opt in, and they would have empowerment tools to allow them opportunities to say, “No, I don’t want to be involved in live streaming,” or to allow their parents to say, “No, I don’t want my child to be able to do live streaming when they sign up to Instagram. I don’t want them able to share live photos and to speak to people they don’t know.” Amendment 46, on private messaging features, would allow children to say, “No, I don’t want to get any private messages from anyone I don’t know.” That is not written into terms of service or in the Bill as a potentially harmful thing, but children should be able to exclude themselves from having such conversations.

We have been talking about the relationship between real life and the online world. If a child is playing in a play park and some stranger comes up and talks to them, the child is perfectly within their rights to say, “No, I’m not speaking to strangers. My parents have told me that, and it is a good idea not to speak to strangers,” but they cannot do that in the online world. We are asking for that to be taken into account and for platforms to allow private messaging and live streaming features to be switched off for certain groups of people. If they were switched off for children under 13, that would make Roblox, for example, a far safer place than it currently is.

I turn to amendment 84, on conversion therapy. I am glad that the amendment was tabled and that there are moves by the UK Government to bring forward the conversion therapy ban. As far as I am aware—I have been in the Chamber all day—we have not yet seen that legislation, but I am told that it will be coming. I pay tribute to all those who have worked really hard to get us to the position where the Government have agreed to bring forward a Bill. They are to be commended on that. I am sorry that it has taken this long, but I am glad that we are in that position. The amendment was massively helpful in that.

Lastly, I turn to amendment 50, on the risk of harm. One of the biggest remaining issues with the Bill is about the categorisation of platforms, which is done on the basis of their size and the risk of their features. The size of the platform—the number of users on it—is the key thing, but that fails to take into account very small and incredibly harmful platforms. The amendment would give Ofcom the power to categorise platforms that are incredibly harmful—incel forums, for example, and Kiwi Farms, set up entirely to dox trans people and put their lives at risk—as category 1 platforms and require them to meet all the rules, risk assessments and things for those platforms.

We should be asking those platforms to answer for what they are doing, no matter how few members they have or how small their user base. One person being radicalised on such a platform is one person too many. Amendment 50 is not an extreme amendment saying that we should ban all those platforms, although we probably should. It would ask Ofcom to have a higher bar for them and require them to do more.

I cannot believe that we are here again and that the Bill has taken so long to get to this point. I agree that the Bill is far from perfect, but it is better than nothing. The SNP will therefore not be voting against its Third Reading, because it is marginally better than the situation that we have right now.

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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. Things are not going quite according to plan, so colleagues might perhaps like to gear more towards five minutes as we move forward.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I rise to speak in favour of new clause 4, on minimum standards. In particular, I shall restrict my remarks to minimum standards in respect of incel culture.

Colleagues will know of the tragedy that took place in Plymouth in 2021. Indeed, the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel), visited Plymouth to meet and have discussions with the people involved. I really want to rid the internet of the disgusting, festering incel culture that is capturing so many of our young people, especially young men. In particular, I want minimum standards to apply and to make sure that, on big and small platforms where there is a risk, those minimum standards include the recognition of incel content. At the moment, incel content is festering in the darkest corners of the internet, where young men are taught to channel their frustrations into an insidious hatred of women and to think of themselves as brothers in arms in a war against women. It is that serious.

In Parliament this morning I convened a group of expert stakeholders, including those from the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, Tech Against Terrorism, Moonshot, Girlguiding, the Antisemitism Policy Trust and the Internet Watch Foundation, to discuss the dangers of incel culture. I believe that incel culture is a growing threat online, with real-world consequences. Incels are targeting young men, young people and children to swell their numbers. Andrew Tate may not necessarily be an incel, but his type of hate and division is growing and is very popular online. He is not the only one, and the model of social media distribution that my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) spoke about incentivises hate to be viewed, shared and indulged in.

This Bill does not remove incel content online and therefore does not prevent future tragedies. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on social media, I want to see minimum standards to raise the internet out of the sewer. Where is the compulsion for online giants such as Facebook and YouTube to remove incel content? Five of the most popular incel channels on YouTube have racked up 140,000 subscribers and 24 million views between them, and YouTube is still platforming four of those five. Why? How can these channels apparently pass YouTube’s current terms and conditions? The content is truly harrowing. In these YouTube videos, men who have murdered women are described as saints and lauded in incel culture.

We know that incels use mainstream platforms such as YouTube to reel in unsuspecting young men—so-called normies—before linking them to their own small, specialist websites that show incel content. This is called breadcrumbing: driving traffic and audiences from mainstream platforms to smaller platforms—which will be outside the scope of category 1 provisions and therefore any minimum standards—where individuals start their journey to incel radicalisation.

I think we need to talk less about freedom of speech and more about freedom of reach. We need to talk about enabling fewer and fewer people to see that content, and about down-ranking sites with appalling content like this to increase the friction to reduce audience reach. Incel content not only includes sexist and misogynist material; it also frequently includes anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic and transphobic items layered on top of one another. However, without a “legal but harmful” provision, the Bill does nothing to force search engines to downrate harmful content. If it is to be online, it needs to be harder and harder to find.

I do not believe that a toggle will be enough to deal with this. I agree with amendment 43—if we are to have a toggle, the default should be the norm—but I do not think a toggle will work because it will be possible to evade it with a simple Google Chrome extension that will auto-toggle and therefore make it almost redundant immediately. It will be a minor inconvenience, not a game changer. Some young men spent 10 hours a day looking at violent incel content online. Do we really think that a simple button, a General Data Protection Regulation annoyance button, will stop them from doing so? It will not, and it will not prevent future tragedies.

However, this is not just about the effect on other people; it is also about the increase in the number of suicides. One of the four largest incel forums is dedicated to suicide and self-harm. Suicide is normalised in the forum, and is often referred to as “catching the bus.” People get together to share practical advice on how they can take their own lives. That is not content to which we should be exposing our young people, but it is currently legal. It is harmful, but it will remain legal under the Bill because the terms and conditions of those sites are written by incels to promote incel content. Even if the sites were moved from category 2 to category 1, they would still pass the tests in the Bill, because the incels have written the terms and conditions to allow that content.

Why are smaller platforms not included in the Bill? Ofcom should have the power to bring category 2 sites into scope on the basis of risk. Analysis conducted by the Center for Countering Digital Hate shows that on the largest incel website, rape is mentioned in posts every 29 minutes, with 89% of those posts referring to it in a positive sense. Moreover, 50% of users’ posts about child abuse on the same site are supportive of paedophilia. Indeed, the largest incel forum has recently changed its terms and conditions to allow mention of the sexualisation of pubescent minors—unlike pre-pubescent minors; it makes that distinction. This is disgusting and wrong, so why is it not covered in the Bill? I think there is a real opportunity to look at incel content, and I would be grateful if the Minister met the cross-party group again to discuss how we can ensure that it is harder and harder to find online and is ultimately removed, so that we can protect all our young people from going down this path.

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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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In order to ensure that we get everybody in, I am going to introduce a five-minute time limit. I call Richard Burgon.

Richard Burgon Portrait Richard Burgon (Leeds East) (Lab)
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I have listened with interest to all the powerful speeches that have been made today. As legislation moves through Parliament, it is meant to be improved, but the great pity with this Bill is that it has got worse, not better. It is a real tragedy that measures protecting adults from harmful but legal content have been watered down.

I rise to speak against the amendments that have come from the Government, including amendments 11 to 14 and 18 and 19, which relate to the removal of adult safety duties. I am also speaking in favour of new clause 4 from the Labour Front Bench team and amendment 43 from the SNP, which go at least some of the way to protect adults from harmful but legal content.

Online Safety Bill

Rosie Winterton Excerpts
Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am keen to bring this back into scope before Mr Speaker chastises us any further, but she is right to say that this will have a direct real-world impact. This is what happens when we focus on content rather than directly on the platforms and the algorithms on the platforms proliferating this content. That is where the focus needs to be. It is the algorithms that share and amplify this content to these many followers time and again that need to be tackled, rather than the content itself. That is what we have been pleading with the Government to concentrate on, but here we are in this mess.

We are pleased that the Government have taken on board Labour’s policy to criminalise certain behaviours—including the encouragement of self-harm, sharing people’s intimate images without their consent, and controlling or coercive behaviours—but we believe that the communications offences more widely should remain in order to tackle dangerous online harms at their root. We have worked consistently to get this Bill over the line and we have reached out to do so. It has been subject to far too many delays and it is on the Government’s hands that we are again facing substantial delays, when internet regulation has never been more sorely needed. I know that the Minister knows that, and I sincerely hope he will take our concerns seriously. I reach out to him again across the Dispatch Box, and look forward to working with him and challenging him further where required as the Bill progresses. I look forward to getting the Bill on to the statute book.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the Chair of the Select Committee.

Julian Knight Portrait Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con)
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I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully), to his place. To say that he has been given a hospital pass in terms of this legislation is a slight understatement. It is very difficult to understand, and the ability he has shown at the Dispatch Box in grasping many of the major issues is to his credit. He really is a safe pair of hands and I thank him for that.

Looking at the list of amendments, I think it is a bit of a hotchpotch, yet we are going to deal only with certain amendments today and others are not in scope. That shows exactly where we are with this legislation. We have been in this stasis now for five years. I remember that we were dealing with the issue when I joined the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and it is almost three years since the general election when we said we would bring forward this world-leading legislation. We have to admit that is a failure of the political class in all respects, but we have to understand the problem and the realities facing my hon. Friend, other Ministers and the people from different Departments involved in drafting this legislation.

We are dealing with companies that are more powerful than the oil barons and railway barons of the 19th century. These companies are more important than many states. The total value of Alphabet, for instance, is more than the total GDP of the Netherlands, and that is probably a low estimate of Alphabet’s global reach and power. These companies are, in many respects, almost new nation states in their power and reach, and they have been brought about by individuals having an idea in their garage. They still have that culture of having power without the consequences that flow from it.

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Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. I commend the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Dame Maria Miller) on her work in this important area. I would like to focus my remarks on legal but harmful content and its relationship to knife crime, and to mention a very harrowing and difficult constituency case of mine. As we have heard, legal but harmful content can have a truly dreadful effect. I pay tribute to the families of the children who have been lost, who have attended the debate, a number of whom are still in the Public Gallery.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Just to be clear, the hon. Gentleman’s speech must relate to the amendments before us today.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. A boy called Olly Stephens in my constituency was just 13 years old when he was stabbed and brutally murdered in an attack linked to online bullying. He died, sadly, very near his home. His parents had little idea of the social media activity in his life. It is impossible to imagine what they have been through. Our hearts go out to them.

Harmful but legal content had a terrible effect on the attack on Olly. The two boys who attacked and stabbed him had been sharing enormous numbers of pictures and videos of knives, repeatedly, over a long period of time. There were often videos of teenagers playing with knives, waving them or holding them. They circulated them on 11 different social media platforms over a long period of time. None of those platforms took any action to take the content down. We all need to learn more about such cases to fully understand the impact of legal but harmful content. Even at this late stage, I hope that the Government will think again about the changes they have made to the Bill and include this area again in the Bill.

There is a second aspect of this very difficult case that I want to mention: the fact that Olly’s murder was discussed on social media and was planned to some extent beforehand. The wider issues here underline the need for far greater regulation and moderation of social media, in particular teenagers’ use of these powerful sites. I am finding it difficult to talk about some of these matters, but I hope that the Government will take my points on board and address the issue of legal but harmful content, and that the Minister will think again about these important matters. Perhaps we will have an opportunity to discuss it in the Bill’s later stages.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - -

Order. Just a quick reminder: I know it is extremely difficult, and I do not want to interrupt hon. Members when they are making their speeches, but it is important that we try to address the amendments that are before us today. There will be a separate debate on whether to recommit the Bill and on the other ideas, so they can be addressed at that point. As I say, it is important to relate remarks to the amendments that are before us.

Kim Leadbeater Portrait Kim Leadbeater (Batley and Spen) (Lab)
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I apologise for having left the debate for a short time; I had committed to speaking to a room full of young people about the importance of political education, which felt like the right thing to do, given the nature of the debate and the impact that the Bill will have on our young people.

I am extremely relieved that we are continuing to debate the Bill, despite the considerable delays that we have seen; as I mentioned in this House previously, it is long overdue. I acknowledge that it is still groundbreaking in its scope and extremely important, but we must now ensure that it works, particularly for children and vulnerable adults, and that it goes some way to cleaning up the internet for everyone by putting users first and holding platforms to account.

On new clause 53, I put on record my thanks to the Government for following through with their commitments to me in Committee to write Zach’s law in full into the Bill. My constituent Zach Eagling and his mum Clare came into Parliament a few weeks ago, and I know that hon. Members from both sides of the House were pleased to meet him to thank him for his incredible campaign to make the vile practice of epilepsy trolling completely illegal, with a maximum penalty of a five-year prison sentence. The inspirational Zach, his mum and the Epilepsy Society deserve enormous praise and credit for their incredible campaign, which will now protect the 600,000 people living with epilepsy in the UK. I am delighted to report that Zach and his mum have texted me to thank all hon. Members for their work on that.

I will raise three areas of particular concern with the parts of the Bill that we are focusing on. First, on director liability, the Bill includes stiff financial penalties for platforms that I hope will force them to comply with these regulations, but until the directors of these companies are liable and accountable for ensuring that their platforms comply and treat the subject with the seriousness it requires, I do not believe that we will see the action needed to protect children and all internet users.

Ultimately, if platforms enforce their own terms and conditions, remove illegal content and comply with the legal but harmful regulations—as they consistently tell us that they will—they have nothing to worry about. When we hear the stories of harm committed online, however, and when we hear from the victims and their families about the devastation that it causes, we must be absolutely watertight in ensuring that those who manage and operate the platforms take every possible step to protect every user on their platform.

We must ensure that, to the directors of those companies, this is a personal commitment as part of their role and responsibility. As we saw with health and safety regulations, direct liability is the most effective way to ensure that companies implement such measures and are scrupulous in reviewing them. That is why I support new clause 17 and thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) for her tireless and invaluable work on this subject.

Let me turn to media literacy—a subject that I raised repeatedly in Committee. I am deeply disappointed that the Government have removed the media literacy duty that they previously committed to introducing. Platforms can boast of all the safety tools they have to protect users, talk about them in meetings, publicise them in press releases and defend them during Committee hearings, but unless users know that they are there and know exactly how to use them, and unless they are being used, their existence is pointless.

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Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. I thank Members who have spoken thus far for their comments. I commend the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) for what she referred to in relation to eating disorders. At this time, we are very aware of that pertinent issue: the impact that social media has—the social pressure and the peer pressure—on those who feel they are too fat when they are not, or that they are carrying weight when they are not. That is part of what the Bill tries to address. I thank the Minister for his very constructive comments—he is always constructive—and for laying out where we are. Some of us perhaps have concerns that the Bill does not go far enough. I know I am one of them and maybe Minister, you might be of the same mind yourself—

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister might be of the same mind himself.

Through speaking in these debates, my office has seen an increase in correspondence from parents who are thankful that these difficult issues are being talked about. The world is changing and progressing, and if we are going to live in a world where we want to protect our children and our grandchildren—I have six grandchildren —and all other grandchildren who are involved in social media, the least we can do is make sure they are safe.

I commend the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Kim Leadbeater) and others, including the hon. Member for Watford (Dean Russell), who have spoken about Zach’s law. We are all greatly impressed that we have that in the Bill through constructive lobbying. New clause 28, which the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) referred to, relates to advocacy for young people. That is an interesting idea, but I feel that advocacy should be for the parents first and not necessarily young people.

Ahead of the debate, I was in contact with the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It published a report entitled “Technology use and the mental health of children and young people”—new clause 16 is related to that—which was an overview of research into the use of screen time and social media by children and young teenagers. It has been concluded that excessive use of phones and social media by a young person is detrimental to their development and mental health—as we all know and as Members have spoken about—and furthermore that online abuse and bullying has become more prevalent because of that. The right hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) referred to those who are susceptible to online harm. We meet them every day, and parents tell me that our concerns are real.

A recent report by NHS Digital found that one in eight 11 to 16-year-olds reported that they had been bullied online. When parents contact me, they say that bulling online is a key issue for them, and the statistics come from those who choose to be honest and talk about it. Although the Government’s role is to create a Bill that enables protection for our children, there is also an incredible role for schools, which can address bullying. My hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Carla Lockhart) and I talked about some of the young people we know at school who have been bullied online. Schools have stepped in and stopped that, encouraging and protecting children, and they can play that role as well.

We have all read of the story of Molly Russell, who was only 14 years old when she took her life. Nobody in this House or outside it could not have been moved by her story. Her father stated that he strongly believed that the images, videos and information that she was able to access through Instagram played a crucial part in her life being cut short. The Bill must complete its passage and focus on strengthening protections online for children. Ultimately, the responsibility is on large social media companies to ensure that harmful information is removed, but the Bill puts the onus on us to hold social media firms to account and to ensure that they do so.

Harmful and dangerous content for children comes in many forms—namely, online abuse and exposure to self-harm and suicidal images. In addition, any inappropriate or sexual content has the potential to put children and young people at severe risk. The Bill is set to put provisions in place to protect victims in the sharing of nude or intimate photos. That is increasingly important for young people, who are potentially being groomed online and do not understand the full extent of what they are doing and the risks that come with that. Amendments have been tabled to ensure that, should such cases of photo sharing go to court, provisions are in place to ensure complete anonymity for the victims—for example, through video links in court, and so on.

I commend the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Dame Maria Miller), who is not in her place, for her hard work in bringing forward new clause 48. Northern Ireland, along with England and Wales, will benefit from new clause 53, and I welcome the ability to hand down sentences of between six months and potentially five years.

Almost a quarter of girls who have taken a naked image have had their image sent to someone else online without their permission. Girls face very distinct and increased risks on social media, with more than four in five online grooming crimes targeting girls, and 97% of child abuse material featuring the sexual abuse of girls—wow, we really need to do something to protect our children and to give parents hope. There needs to be increased emphasis and focus on making children’s use of the internet safer by design. Once established, all platforms and services need to have the capacity and capability to respond to emerging patterns of sexual abuse, which often stem from photo sharing.

The Minister referred to terrorism and how terrorism can be promoted online. I intervened on him to mention the glorification of IRA terrorism and how that encourages further acts of terrorism and people who are susceptible to be involved. I am quite encouraged by the Minister’s response, and I think that we need to take a significant step. Some in Northern Ireland, for instance, try to rewrite history and use the glorification of terrorism for that purpose. We would like to see strengthening of measures to ensure that those involved in those acts across Northern Ireland are controlled.

In conclusion, there are many aspects of the Bill that I can speak in support of in relation to the benefits of securing digital protections for those on social media. This is, of course, about protecting not just children, but all of us from the dangers of social media. I have chosen to speak on these issues as they are often raised by constituents. There are serious matters regarding the glorification and encouragement of self-harm that the Bill needs to address. We have heard stories tonight that are difficult to listen to, because they are true stories from people we know, and we have heard horror stories about intimate photo sharing online. I hope that action on those issues, along with the many others that the Government are addressing, will be embedded in the Bill with the intent to finally ensure that we have regulations and protection for all people, especially our children—I think of my children and grandchildren, and like everybody else, my constituents.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rosie Winterton Excerpts
Thursday 1st December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I am terribly sorry, but the hon. Gentleman has lost his opportunity. Never mind—next time.