Amendment 124

Part of Online Safety Bill - Committee (8th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 10:30 pm on 23 May 2023.

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Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Science, Innovation and Technology) 10:30, 23 May 2023

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his responses to the number of different issues that he has been asked about after he sat down, so to speak, which I think have been taken on board. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Gohir and Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lord, Lord Allan, for their support for these amendments.

It is also a pleasure to see the noble Lord, Lord Black, who has clearly been lured out at this late hour—perhaps not so unwillingly; it gives him a chance to rehearse some of the arguments for the media Bill coming down the track. Along with the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, I am sure he will enjoy the media Bill when it comes. I had many happy hours sitting next door to the noble Lord, Lord Black, on the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, on which I may say that we agreed on most things.

But the fact is that one person’s strong exemptions is another person’s special privileges, and that very much applies in these circumstances as regards what I think the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, would call the mainstream media. I enjoyed what the noble Baroness had to say, because she came round to some kind of agreement at the end on what we might call mainstream media exceptionalism, which is a fair description. There is an element of cakeism about the way that the mainstream media seem to want to have it.

The Minister talked about low-risk services, and I think that was the reason why we had these questions asked about risk assessment. How does the Minister know that these below-the-line comments sections are low-risk unless a risk assessment has been made? We heard from the noble Baronesses, Lady Grey-Thompson and Lady Gohir, about the content of some of those comments sections. That does not sound low-risk to me at all, and I think that is the basis of their support for the amendments. When the Minister says it is not proportionate to regulate these comments sections, he is assuming they are low-risk services without much evidence. He threw a small bone by saying that sites can be held liable for illegal content, but that is a relatively small bone in those circumstances.

I took some comfort from the way that the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, talked about the need for constant evaluation. Perish the thought, but we may well need an online safety Bill number 2; I just hope it is not too soon and that we have time for a little evaluation of how this Bill operates. That is why I am pretty keen that we should get this Bill into the best possible shape.

I thought what the noble Lord, Lord Knight, had to say about post-legislative scrutiny was very apposite, but the hour is late so I will not go through too many other aspects of this. This has been a good debate. I hope the media Bill is not déjà vu all over again, but we will see what happens when we get to it. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 124 withdrawn.

House resumed.