Online Harms - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:55 pm on 8th April 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative 5:55 pm, 8th April 2019

My Lords, as a former Digital Minister I came to the conclusion some time ago that we need some regulation to reduce online harm, rather in the spirit of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, which now has very wide support across the House. I welcome the White Paper. I had almost got to the point of tabling a Private Member’s Bill on duty of care, because time was passing.

My noble friend has kindly already answered my first question, which was about breadth. Like the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, I am very interested in some of these wider harms, such as fraud, which affects millions online every year. My second question is whether there will there be a business impact assessment on some of this. I would encourage that, as these normally have cross-party support—although perhaps not today.

My final question is on the penalties. I cannot find them on a quick read, but the Secretary of State was talking in quite red-blooded terms this morning about fines of 4% of global turnover, prosecution of directors, and so on. That seems quite over the top, especially if you have a very strong regulator. We need to make sure that we do not chill future digital growth in the UK as people in small businesses—which the Minister helpfully referenced—and large businesses may take too risk-averse an approach. We will need to debate that when the Bill comes to the House.