Culture secretary

Nadine Dorries says new culture secretary ‘doesn’t understand’ online safety bill


Eleanor Langford

4 minute read

Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said there was “absolutely no reason” to change the Online Safety Bill and accused her successor Michelle Donelan of not understanding the legislation.

In an extensive interview for The House magazine, Dorries said the government was “going to have a lot of explaining to do” over plans to remove clauses from the bill that would require social media companies to crack down on “legal but harmful” content, such as publications promoting suicide or self-harm.

Donelan, who took over as culture secretary from Dorries in September, claimed shortly after her appointment that she would “amend” the clause amid concerns about its implications for free speech.

“There is absolutely no reason why the bill needs to be changed in any way,” Dorries said.

“Mainly because all the difficult and contentious stages of the bill, including legal but harmful, have already been passed. It’s already over. Our own party voted yes.

She added: “Michelle [Donelan] has been in labor five minutes and can’t understand enough about it.

Dorries admitted plans to water down the online safety bill made her feel “pretty rubbish” and that she expected the amended version to be seen as a “piece of blank paper” by the House of Lords.

“The government now, and certainly my successor, is going to have a lot of explaining to do about why she thinks posting messages encouraging people to self-harm is something that should be allowed,” she said. for follow-up.

Dorries was candid about her own battles to push the Bill forward while she was in government, saying her predecessor Oliver Dowden tried to block her progress in Parliament.

“I can tell you what Oliver Dowden told me when I took over. He said, “That’s an awful bill, throw him in the tall grass.”

“And I was like, no, because I’m the person who should be explaining to the parents of Molly Russell, to all those parents who have lost their children, and to the parents of all those children who have been damaged.”

Russell committed suicide in 2017, aged 14. His family has since campaigned for stricter regulations on social media.

Following a recent inquest into his death, which concluded that social media contributed ‘more than minimally’, his father said it was ‘time for the toxic corporate culture’ of the social media giants to change. .

“It is time for the Government’s Online Safety Bill to urgently produce its long-promised legislation,” he said in a statement.

“It’s time to protect our innocent young people, instead of allowing platforms to prioritize their profits by monetizing their misery.”

Dorries continued: ‘I had to convince everyone from the business leaders, the House leader, the chief whip and the No 10 politicians.

Since Boris Johnson announced his resignation in July, the final stages of the online safety bill have been delayed twice, raising fears it could be scrapped.

PoliticsHome understands that the bill should come back to Parliament before the end of this year.

Outlining her plans for the legislation in September, Donelan said she would seek to change the “legal but harmful” clause before it moves forward.

‘I’m not going to announce today exactly how we’re going to change that because it will be due process to do so in Parliament,’ she told BBC Radio Four. Today program.

“But this element is in relation to adults. Elements relating to children and online safety will not change. And that’s the overarching goal of the bill, and that’s why we put it in our manifesto.

Donelan continued, “The main part of the bill is to make it a priority for social media providers and websites that generate user content and to make sure that if they act in the wrong way, we can impose massive fines on them, which would be very punitive, and prevent them from doing it again.

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