New Clause 15 - Guidance about illegal content judgements

Online Safety Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 12th July 2022.

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“(1) OFCOM must produce guidance for providers of Part 3 services about the matters dealt with in section (Providers’ judgements about the status of content) so far as relating to illegal content judgements.

(2) “Illegal content judgements” means judgements of a kind mentioned in subsection (4) of that section.

(3) Before producing the guidance (including revised or replacement guidance), OFCOM must consult such persons as they consider appropriate.

(4) OFCOM must publish the guidance (and any revised or replacement guidance).”—(Damian Collins.)

This new clause requires OFCOM to give guidance to providers about how they should approach judgements about whether content is illegal content or a fraudulent advertisement.

Brought up, and added to the Bill.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Despite over 50 members of the Government resigning last week and many more Tory MPs submitting letters of no confidence in their own leader, the Conservative party continues to prop up this failed Prime Minister until September. They are complicit. They know—indeed, they have said—he is not fit to govern. They told the public so just days ago. Now they seem to be running scared and will not allow the Opposition to table a vote of no confidence. [Hon. Members: “Shame!”] Yes. This is yet another outrageous breach of the conventions that govern our country from a man who disrespected the Queen and illegally prorogued Parliament. Now he is breaking yet another convention. Every single day he is propped up by his Conservative colleagues, he is doing more damage to this country.

Mr Deputy Speaker, are you aware of any other instances where a Prime Minister has so flagrantly ignored the will of this House by refusing to grant time to debate a motion of no confidence in the Government, despite the fact that even his own party does not believe he should be Prime Minister any more? Do you agree with me that this egregious breach of democratic convention only further undermines confidence in this rotten Government?

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Labour, Derby South

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I recognise that under the present Prime Minister, this Government have specialised in constitutional innovation. Nevertheless, it certainly seems to me, and I hope it does to you and to the House authorities, that this is stretching the boundaries of what is permissible into the outrageous and beyond, and threatening the democracy of this House.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The convention is that if the Leader of the Opposition tables a motion of no confidence, it is taken as the next available business. That is what has been done, yet even though we know that large swathes of the party in Government have no confidence in their Prime Minister, they are refusing to acknowledge and honour a time-honoured convention that is the only way to make a debate on that possible. Do you not agree that it is for this House of Commons to test whether any given Prime Minister has its confidence and that his or her Prime Ministership is always based on that? One of the prerequisites for being appointed Prime Minister of this country by the Queen is that that person shall have the confidence of the House of Commons. If we are not allowed to test that now, when on earth will be allowed to test it?

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee on Standards 5:15 pm, 12th July 2022

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As you know, “Erskine May” says very clearly:

“By established convention, the Government always accedes to the demand from the Leader of the Opposition” in regard to a no-confidence motion. There has been a very long tradition of all sorts of different kinds of votes of no confidence. Baldwin, Melbourne, Wellington and Salisbury all resigned after a vote on an amendment to the Loyal Address; they considered that to be a vote of no confidence. Derby and Gladstone resigned after an amendment to the Budget; they considered that to be a vote of no confidence. Neville Chamberlain resigned after a motion to adjourn the House, even though he won the vote, because he saw that as a motion of no confidence. So it is preposterous that the Government are trying to say that the motion that is being tabled for tomorrow somehow does not count.

Let me remind Government Members that on 2 August 1965, the motion tabled by the Conservatives was:

“That this House
has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government and deplores the Prime Minister’s conduct of the nation’s affairs.”

I think this House agrees with that today.

Of course, we briefly had the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, which set in statute that there was only one way of having a motion of no confidence, but this Government overturned and repealed that Act. The then Minister, Michael Gove, came on behalf of the Government to tell the Joint Committee on the Fixed-term Parliaments Act:

“It seems to us to be cleaner and clearer to have a return to a more classical understanding of what a vote of confidence involves.”

It is simple: the Prime Minister is disgraced, he does not enjoy the confidence of the House, and if he simply tries to prevent the House from coming to that decision, it is because he is a coward.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I will only allow three more points of order, because this is eating into time for very important business. [Interruption.] They are all similar points of order and we could carry on with them until 7 o’clock, but we are not going to do so.

Photo of Karin Smyth Karin Smyth Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. At the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee this morning, Sir John Major presented evidence to us about propriety and ethics. In that very sombre presentation, he talked about being

“at the top of a slope” down towards the loss of democracy in this country. Ultimately, the will of Parliament is all we have, so if we do not have Parliament to make the case, what other option do we have?

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I ask the final Members please to show restraint as far as language is concerned, because I am not happy with some of the language that has been used.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There have been 50 resignations of Ministers; the Government are mired in controversy; people are acting up as Ministers who are not quite Ministers, as I understand it; and legislation is being delayed. When was there ever a better time for the House to table a motion of no confidence in a Government? This is a cowardly act not by the Prime Minister, but by the Conservative party, which does not want a vote on this issue. Conservative Members should support the move to have a vote of no confidence and have the courage to stand up for their convictions.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade Team Member), Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, International Trade Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. How can the Conservative party have no confidence in and write letters about the Prime Minister one week yet refuse to come to Parliament the following week to declare that in front of the public?

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Labour, Cardiff West

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Can you inform the House of whether Mr Speaker has received any explanation from the Government for this craven and egregious breach of parliamentary convention? If someone were to table a motion under Standing Order No. 24 for tomorrow, has he given any indication of what his attitude would be towards such a motion?

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I will answer the question about Standing Order No. 24 first, because I can deal with it immediately: clearly, if an application is made, Mr Speaker will determine it himself.

The principles concerning motions of no confidence are set out at paragraph 18.44 of “Erskine May”, which also gives examples of motions that have been debated and those that have not. “May” says:

“By established convention, the Government always accedes to the demand from the Leader of the Opposition to allot a day for the discussion of a motion tabled by the official Opposition which, in the Government’s view, would have the effect of testing the confidence of the House.”

I can only conclude, therefore, that the Government have concluded that the motion, as tabled by the official Opposition, does not have that effect. That is a matter for the Government, though, rather than for the Chair.

May I say that there are seven more sitting days before recess? As Deputy Speaker, I would anticipate that there will be further discussions.

We now have to move on with the continuation of business on the Bill.