Today Lord Frost joins Guido in the fight against the Online Harms Bill, launching an all-out assault on its threat to free speech. Frost’s no holds barred attack, including calling the bill “fundamentally flawed” and un-conservative, has been published alongside a new paper by the IEA, which accuses the bill of handing “unprecedented censorship powers to Secretary of State and Ofcom”. Objectively correct.
In full, Frost says:
“There is so much wrong with this Bill that it is hard to know where to start, but the report rightly highlights the fact that it will mean some speech that is legal offline will effectively be impossible online. That makes no sense and will be highly damaging to public debate, especially given the weakness of the free speech protections in the Bill.
“Overall the Bill also panders to the view of the perennially offended – those who think the Government should protect them from ever encountering anything they disagree with. A Conservative Government should not be putting this view into law.
“The best thing the Government could do would be to slim down the Bill so they can proceed rapidly with the genuinely uncontroversial aspects, and consign the rest where it belongs – the waste paper basket.”
Reading through the IEA’s paper, one thing that immediately jumps out to Guido is that the government’s own expected cost of the bill has jumped up from £2.1 billion in May 2021 to £2.5 billion today – a whole £400 million extra in a year. A figure the IEA rubbishes as a nonsense underestimation anyway:
“The impact assessment asserts that it will cost businesses, on average, £700 over ten years to read and understand the regulations, for example. However, this would not realistically cover the fees of a specialist law firm for two hours, let alone the internal staff time costs. The impact assessment specifically assumes staff will only require 30 minutes to familiarise themselves with the requirements of the 255-page legislation and 90 minutes to read, assess and change terms and conditions in response to the requirements. Legal advice is estimated to cost £39.23 per hour an order of magnitude less than the fees of hundreds of pounds per hour typically charged by lawyers in this field.”
Turning to the inclusion of ‘legal but harmful’ speech, which platforms will have to crack down on, huge questions remain on specifics given the government has still not formally specified categories this will include. While the obvious woke labels of ‘misogynistic abuse’ will likely be included, shadow DCMS secretary Lucy Powell has already let the mask slip on the future plans of Labour ministers to massively abuse this power:
“Lucy Powell has raised concerns that the Bill as it stands would allow ‘incels’ and ‘climate deniers’ to ‘slip through the net’. She clearly envisages an extension of the notion of ‘harmful’ to cover matters of public policy debate.”
David Davis also pitches in, warning “could end up being one of the most significant accidental infringements on free speech in modern times.” Guido can’t understand why Nadine believes this won’t backfire on Conservatives like her. Big Brother Watch already proved that her “nail your balls to the floor” tweet, if posted to Facebook, results in the post being deleted by the platform. That’s before her new free speech clamp down comes into force…
Guido encourages all policymakers to read the paper – embedded below. If the government wants to get the Boris show back on the road, and reassure Tory members and MPs that this government is worth fighting for – while saving at least £2.5 billion – scrapping swathes of this big-state bill could not be a more obvious starting point…
The fallout from last week’s Rwanda announcement continues into this week, with a couple of eyebrow-raising interventions in the papers. A letter in The Times from one of Sir Keir’s Doughty Street chums, James Wood QC, claims to have come up with a new migrant strategy for the Home Office. He writes:
“Sir, One solution to tackle trafficking would be to have undercover officers in Calais pretending to be seeking to travel across the Channel. The tactic is frequently deployed in the fight against drugs and is known as a “test purchase”. Perhaps Priti Patel could try that before wasting taxpayers’ money on outsourcing detention contracts to Rwandan businessmen.”
Wood’s solution of undeclared operations in an allied country – something that is implied to be completely novel and not already carried out by French police – has been met with derision in Whitehall. Genius…
In other fall-out, David Davis takes to the Times Red Box this morning calling the plan an “abuse” of “hard-won Brexit freedoms”:
“But the plan is fraught with practical problems, beset by moral dilemmas and hamstrung by extortionate costs. And outsourcing our international obligations are certainly not the freedoms that Brexit was about winning.”
One co-conspirator with a keen memory, however, refers Guido back to David Davis’s 2004 Tory conference speech, when the then-Shadow Home Secretary called for the next Conservative government to, “push ahead with reforms to our asylum system, with a system of overseas processing.” Awkward…
No disciplinary action is to be taken against David Davis MP by the party after he attended a gala dinner on Saturday and was asked to leave for being “hammered”. Local reports claim witnesses said David Davis was behaving in a manner “that was making people uncomfortable”, including touching, hugging and getting too close to people. He was eventually asked to leave by two of his MP colleagues…
“He was hammered and everyone could see he needed to leave. People were very uncomfortable with how he was acting, which would have been inappropriate even if he wasn’t an MP at an official function”
In a statement, the former minister admitted he had had too much to drink at the function and “that was a mistake”. The Australian MP for the Southern Metropolitan Region – whose behaviour is described above – should not be confused with our own Rt Hon David Davis MP. He can hold his drink…
David Davis tells The Sun’s Harry Cole says he hasn’t actually put in a letter yet and is livid about the interview yesterday where PM appeared to be blaming staff, “I voted for him but that’s not what I expect from a leader.” A senior minister quips to Cole of David Davis, “if anyone has sat there too long, it’s probably him.”
The campaign group Defund the BBC is hosting a debate at Conservative Party Conference on whether the BBC licence should be reformed or scrapped. Speakers include former Secretary of State Rt Hon David Davis MP and Reasoned presenter Darren Grimes.
Successive governments have backed away from confrontation with the BBC at the last minute and the campaign group is looking to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
“The BBC licence is a discriminatory tax which unfairly hits the vulnerable hardest” Campaign Director, Rebecca Ryan says, adding “but it’s also totally archaic and unpolicable. The BBC can only continue to raise funds this way through coercion and threats. It’s time for the BBC to join the 21st century and move onto a voluntary subscription model that covers just BBC content.”
The event takes place on Tuesday October 5th 2021, 4pm, Rylands Suite, Novotel.
Readers will no doubt be aware of incredible scenes in the Commons last night, as David Davis used parliamentary privilege to unveil not-seen-before text messages that seem to undermine three key Sturgeon claims:
While Davis acknowledged “no single sequence of texts” would prove Salmond’s case, he called for them to now be properly investigated. Sturgeon, naturally, accused the messages of being cherry-picked…
What those who didn’t tune in to the full debate last night may have missed, however, were incredible scenes of the SNP’s new Chief Whip trying to shut David Davis down:
“there are court orders in place around the identities of individuals involved in that case. I do appreciate the points that he is making, but I would appreciate your guidance on how we can ensure that these court orders can in fact be adhered to in this place.”
Thankfully the SNP’s cover-up attempts were less successful in the Commons than in their one-party state north of the border…