Rishi Sunak ‘bows to Tory rebels’ to boost online safety for children

Rishi Sunak appears to have bowed to pressure from rebel Tory MPs to toughen up punishments for social media bosses who fail to protect children from harm online. The

Prime Minister was facing a major backbench rebellion as 50 MPs put their names to an amendment to the Online Safety Bill that would make tech chiefs criminally liable if they do

not block minors from seeing damaging content on their platforms. Michelle Donelan has effectively accepted the proposed change after talks with rebels over the weekend,

according to a source close to the Culture Secretary. The source suggested Ms Donelan likes the intention of the amendment, but the wording “wasn’t quite right”. She is

working with the MPs to table it in the Lords “in a more workable format”. The agreement allows the Prime Minister to avoid an embarrassing defeat in the Commons should it

be put to a vote on Tuesday during its report stage. It marks the third time Mr Sunak has backed down in the face of uprisings on his back benches since entering No 10 in

October, having ditched onshore wind farms and housing planning reforms. Former cabinet ministers including ex-home secretary Priti Patel and former Conservative leader Sir

Iain Duncan Smith are among those backing the change to the Online Safety Bill. With Labour supporting it too, failure to find a compromise would have seen Mr Sunak on

course for his first major defeat in the Commons. The rebel amendment looks to introduce a new clause into the Online Safety Bill to “make it an offence for the provider of

a user-to-service not to comply with the safety duties protecting children” which are set out in the draft law.