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Online Harms Legislation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:32 am on 13th February 2020.

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Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 10:32 am, 13th February 2020

The Chair of the Select Committee is absolutely right that regulation without teeth is not a valuable form of regulation. We will be talking to Ofcom about what it believes the most effective form of regulation will be, and we will obviously be feeding in our own thoughts as well. The decision that we made yesterday allows us to start having those formal conversations, and Ofcom to start talking to the industry as well. In the same vein, I agree with my hon. Friend that a levy has been much discussed. He mentions one figure. We will obviously have to discuss with Ofcom what it considers to be the level of resources that it needs, and I do not use that as a way of trying to weasel out of what he suggests by any means. It is a very interesting suggestion.

There will be, of course, a legal duty on companies to be more transparent with their customers. We are talking about transparency already in some working groups that I have been chairing. My hon. Friend mentions pre-legislative scrutiny. It is, of course, a tradition, although not a necessity, that full pre-legislative scrutiny in one Session would require the Bill to be introduced in the following Session, and this Government are not content to introduce that kind of delay. However, he did in fact mention pre-legislative scrutiny by his Committee, rather than in the formal way, and it is an interesting suggestion. I look forward to working closely with him on what the best form of scrutiny looks like.

Similarly, another interesting suggestion is what role my hon. Friend’s Committee might play when it comes to the regulator of this. We have compared regulation of financial services when we have been thinking about this, and he is right to make a comparison. It is another interesting suggestion. I look forward to working with him and his Committee—I hope. [Interruption.] I will put my phone on speaker on the Dispatch Box. I look forward to working with him, to be serious, because this is an area where I hope we can form genuine cross-party consensus on what is the right way forward without introducing a moment’s delay.