Delays to the Online Safety Bill delay are “a victory” for web “sex abusers, scammers, public health cranks, and hostile states”, Labour claimed tonight.
The Government has shelved its flagship internet crackdown as the Tory leadership race unfolds – triggering fury from campaigners.
No10 blamed limited parliamentary time in the run-up to the summer recess and highlighted the vote of no confidence which will take place on Monday – which the Government is certain to win.
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The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “There are a wide range of competing demands that need to be considered before the House rises; they include the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Some of that time will be devoted to the vote of confidence.
“We have seen before that there are prioritisation decisions that need to be taken at this point.”
But Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries insisted in a tweet: “Online Safety Bill hasn’t been pulled, or dropped at all.
“Thanks to Labour grandstanding with a no confidence vote in the PM next week, we’ve run out of Parliamentary time to debate, meaning children and young people will be vulnerable and exposed for much longer.”
But Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell warned: “This landmark Bill is years in the making, but it is becoming a casualty of the chaos at the heart of this Government and a Conservative leadership race which puts self-interest before the national interest.
“By delaying this Bill the Government are gifting online sex abusers, scammers, public health cranks and hostile states at the expense of ordinary families.
“Rather than threaten the future of this Bill, leadership contenders should give a cast iron guarantee that it will continue its passage so we can strengthen and improve it further in the House of Lords.”
The Bill was promised more than four years ago and was due to finish its Commons stages next Wednesday after weeks of scrutiny.
Some Conservative leadership candidates have refused to commit to resurrecting the legislation, with Kemi Badenoch saying the Government should not worry “about hurt feelings online”.
Cabinet Office Minister Kit Malthouse admitted the Bill could be amended amid concerns among some Tory MPs at the impact on free speech.
“That manifesto commitment needs to be fulfilled. Whoever is our new glorious leader, they will have to bear that in mind as they contemplate the legislation in the autumn,” he warned.
“I don’t think there is a single person in either the Commons or the Lords who wants to do anything other than strengthen the protection for children online.
“As normal with legislation, it will be adjusted by amendments with the Government in the driving seat so we can satisfy that manifesto commitment.
“I haven’t heard anybody yet in the leadership or elsewhere say they want to scrap the Bill entirely although obviously, as there always is with legislation, (there will be) debates about nuance and complexity.”