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MPs propose Online Safety Bill amendments

July 4, 2022

By Colin Mann

Suggesting the changes would limit the powers of the Secretary of State to interfere in the work of the independent regulator Ofcom, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) of the UK House of Commons has put forward amendments to the Government’s proposed online safety legislation.

The amendments to the Online Safety Bill, which will be tabled ahead of Report stage on July 12th, aim to safeguard the independence and integrity of Ofcom by removing the power of the Secretary of State to direct or block the regulator from issuing codes of practice to service providers before Parliament considers them.

“A free media depends on ensuring the regulator is free from the threat of day-to-day interference from the executive,” asserts DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP. “The Government will still have an important role in setting the direction of travel, but Ofcom must not be constantly peering over its shoulder answering to the whims of a backseat-driving Secretary of State.”

The Committee carried out pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill before it was introduced to Parliament in March 2022. The Committee welcomed changes to the Bill from its draft form but called for clarity on whether there were plans for a new joint committee to scrutinise the legislation. The Committee took further evidence on the Bill in June 2022 from academics and policy experts.

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