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General Committees

Debated on Monday 19 April 2021

Delegated Legislation Committee

Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products (Wine) (Amendment, etc.) Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Philip Hollobone

Byrne, Ian (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab)

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

Docherty, Leo (Aldershot) (Con)

† Furniss, Gill (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)

Harris, Rebecca (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

Jones, Fay (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)

Mann, Scott (North Cornwall) (Con)

† Morris, James (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

† Prentis, Victoria (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

Rutley, David (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

Sharma, Mr Virendra (Ealing, Southall) (Lab)

Sheerman, Mr Barry (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)

Thomson, Richard (Gordon) (SNP)

Throup, Maggie (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

Trickett, Jon (Hemsworth) (Lab)

† Zeichner, Daniel (Cambridge) (Lab)

Liam Laurence Smyth, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 19 April 2021

[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products (Wine) (Amendment, etc.) Regulations 2021

Before we begin, I would like to remind Members to observe social distancing and only sit in places that are clearly marked. I would also like to remind Members that Mr Speaker has stated that masks should be worn in Committee. Hansard would be most grateful if Members could send their speaking notes by email to

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products (Wine) (Amendment, etc.) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021, No. 279).

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone.

The instrument concerns protection of geographical indications in Great Britain. Geographical indications, or GIs, are a form of intellectual property protection for the names of food, drink and agricultural products with qualities attributable to the place they are produced or the traditional methods by which they are made. Examples include Scotch whisky, Welsh lamb and Melton Mowbray pork pies. However, the instrument concerns only wine.

The instrument contains a necessary amendment to the retained EU regulation that provides the legal basis for the wine GI scheme. I am sorry to be taking up the Committee’s time with this, and can only apologise that the original error was made in the large number of SIs that we had to prepare at the end of the transition period. The amendment corrects an error in the original legislation that was identified by a very sharp-eyed civil servant in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—and we are very grateful to her. We have used the made affirmative procedure as the resolution provided by this instrument was needed quickly. This ensures that the intellectual property protection of wine GIs and traditional terms in Great Britain continues and the UK maintains compliance with its international agreements. The SI does not make any wider policy changes.

All we are doing is correcting article 107 of retained EU regulation No.1308/2013, concerning protected wine names and traditional terms. Three separate exit instruments provided for amendments in relation to this article, but in the process an inadvertent revocation was made of the text that was intended to be in place. The instrument puts the intended provision back in place. That ensures that all established wine GIs and traditional terms are protected and legitimately appear on the public register of wines and traditional terms that we protect. That in turn ensures that the UK Government fully comply with their GI commitments under the EU withdrawal agreement, and our World Trade Organisation obligations.

As well as making a direct amendment to a retained EU regulation, the instrument includes a corresponding revocation of domestic secondary legislation. Since the instrument entered into force on 10 March 2021, the relevant entries in our public GI registers have been updated to show the date of registration as 10 March, rather than 31 December 2020. This change has been made to just under 2,000 records; seven of these are UK names, the rest are predominantly from EU countries.

We have engaged with the Food Standards Agency and the network of trading standards authorities, which have confirmed that they are not aware of any wine GI infringements during this period related to the mistake. We have provided this reassurance to the European Commission. We have also engaged with the two main wine trade bodies, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and WINEGB, and with the Scottish and Welsh Governments, who were appreciative of our speedy efforts to rectify the error and our engagement with them. They also thankfully reported no knowledge of any breaches to affected product names.

I want to reassure the Committee that all product names under the three other GI schemes have not been affected, including spirit drinks and agri-foods.

I commend the SI to the Committee.

I am pleased to say that we have until 6 o’clock to debate the regulations.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone.

I hope that I will not need to take us to 6 o’clock, because at first sight the Committee is considering a simple change correcting a previous error, which the Minister has elegantly explained and for which no apology is required. An honest mistake was made, but it was spotted and corrected. I have to say that I am rather pleased that I was not involved with the previous SI. Looking at paragraph 7.1 of the explanatory notes, it is clear that there is no way that many of us would have noticed the issue. As I have observed before, there is a huge level of complexity and detail in these regulations that, frankly, most of us do not have the capacity to work through. We are very reliant on civil servants and grateful to them for doing that.

I should also like to note the importance of geographical indications in general, and for our domestic wine industry, which we all wish to see go from strength to strength. I can assure you, Mr Hollobone, that the Opposition will not oppose the instrument, but—of course there is always a “but”—there is an issue on which I will be slightly less gracious, on which we have touched before when SIs relating to wine are discussed, and which I suspect that the Minister may have anticipated. The VI-1 may sound like a horrible warhead, but it is actually a horrible form, and it is exercising many people. It was the main issue raised when the SI went before the Lords last week. I certainly found Lord Moynihan’s contribution very telling and powerful.

I shall briefly remind the Committee of the issue, which is about wine import certification and the blue tape with which the Government are currently strangling parts of the British wine industry. The Government have chosen to roll over EU rules on wine imports that require a detailed import certificate in addition to standard customs paperwork, the VI-1 form, for all wine imports from third countries. These detail how strong a wine is, what grape it is made from and how many containers are being sent. Each different type of wine in a consignment must list all these details and the form requires a stamp from customs officials, presenting a significant logistical challenge and cost burden for wine importers in the UK.

While a slightly simpler version of the VI-1 form has been negotiated in the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement for wine imports from the EU, this still requires a customs stamp, which will delay transit through ports and place a significant burden on our importers. The Government have delayed the introduction of these new forms twice, but as it stands they are still going to be introduced at the end of the year. The British wine industry is quite frankly at a loss to understand why the Government are so set on introducing this import documentation at all.

The EU’s rationale for having an import document that is effectively a technical barrier to trade is, in reality, to protect its wine industry. For the UK, which is a net importer of wine, it makes very little sense for us to maintain rules designed to disadvantage our imports; we import over 99% of the wine we consume in this country, and around half those imports are from the EU.

As I said, we want our own wonderful wine industry to flourish and grow—there are great English and Welsh wines produced in this country, which is why we support the correction to ensure that geographical indications work properly. In terms of volume, however, we remain a significant importer. The Minister will know that we also have a vibrant export industry based on this trade, with the UK acting as a major wine hub for the rest of the world and wine being our sixth biggest food and drink export in 2019. So this is important.

Yet the Government seen happy to wrap these vibrant industries in blue tape. These forms are a measure that will be significantly damaging to our UK wine importers, who already have to deal with a raft of new barriers to trade as a result of leaving the EU. It will disproportionately damage SMEs, particularly independent wine merchants like Cambridge Wine Merchants in my constituency, as well as pubs, bars and restaurants, for which a wide selection of niche and interesting wines is a unique selling point. It will be damaging to UK consumers, who could see cost increases and decreased product choice, and to the Government themselves, who could see a loss of revenue to the Exchequer and are committing themselves to carrying out yet more form stamping at the border due to the customs stamp requirement.

Daniel Lambert, who will probably be well known to the Minister and who imports up to 2 million bottles of wine a year for 300 retailers including supermarkets, has been vocal in the media about the situation he now finds himself in due to the Government’s decisions. He has likened the impact on the sector to a

“multiple pile-up in the fog”.

He is not happy and neither are others. Yet again we see the Government’s incompetent Brexit deal wrapping ribbons of red tape around the UK’s wine sector for no good reason whatever.

As the Minister said, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association has been clear that, as far as it can tell, the additional bureaucracy is unnecessary. There is no customs requirement for it and no safety issue involved. Wine is already heavily regulated by rules such as the geographical indications to ensure quality control and no other alcoholic drink requires a similar form, so will the Minister clarify the Government’s practical reasons for introducing the forms? If there is no real consumer protection purpose for them, the Government must have another reason for their introduction.

I understand that it has been suggested that maintaining wine import certification rules will level the playing field for wine from the rest of the world. I am sure that the Minister recognises that there are two different scenarios here. I am reliably informed by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association that the supply chain for wine imported from third countries thousands of miles away, often moved in bulk, is very different from the supply chain for wine imported from the EU, which is often imported by SMEs. Importing 25,000 litres of Australian wine in a flexitank with one VI-1 form is much less burdensome and costly than importing 20 wines in bottles from the EU that require 20 additional pieces of documentation.

Rather than imposing a requirement on all imports, the Government could just as easily create a level playing field by not introducing a requirement for import certificates for EU wines and scrapping the current requirements for non-EU wine imports. The only explanation for the Government’s action—Lord Moynihan made the point powerfully—is that it is a negotiating ploy in ongoing trade negotiations with third countries. I am sure that the Minister will deny it, but in my view, the Government are using the British wine industry and particularly British small businesses as pawns in a bigger trade game and happily leaving them endure extra bureaucracy just for extra leverage. Small wonder that Ministers are so reluctant to respond to the sector’s concerns. I am told that repeated requests from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association for a meeting to discuss the issue have been ignored.

At a time when the Government are already having to delay the introduction of mandatory customs procedures, it makes no sense to introduce additional controls if they are non-essential. As a minimum, it would be far more sensible for the Government to delay the introduction of the forms until an electronic version can be established, but the British wine industry is clear that it would be far better to scrap the unnecessary forms. It is entirely within the Government’s gift to do that.

The Government have a perfect opportunity to put their money where their money is, scrap the red tape and support British businesses. Will the Minister explain why on earth they are choosing not to do so when they have been given the chance—a Brexit benefit, no less?

Will the Minister commit today to meet me and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association at the earliest opportunity to discuss the issue further? If not, I fear there will be an empty chair, perhaps occupied by a bottle of wine wrapped in red tape, or even red, white and blue tape. We do not oppose the statutory instrument but we are cross about the Government’s continuing failure to engage.

Clearly, it is essential that we have the right legislation in place for the effective operation of the UK’s GI scheme. That is of course what we are here to talk about this afternoon. However, I am prepared to deal briefly with the hon. Gentleman’s points about VI-1s, though they are not directly in scope, so I will be brief.

VI-1s already exist for other nations—Australia, the US and Chile. Those wines are very competitive in the UK market and the existence of a VI-1 form does not prevent them from being enjoyed here. The hon. Gentleman is right that leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to consider whether we should review the policy to suit our needs. As he said, it is possibly a Brexit benefit and it certainly gives us the opportunity to ensure that the scheme that we have in the UK is right for us, our importers and our exporters.

As the hon. Gentleman said, we are an important wine-trading nation, second only to the United States in the value of our imports. We also export, and re-export mainly, large quantities of wine to the EU—about £400 million- worth a year. Leaving the EU gives us scope to review our policies and we continue to monitor all areas of retained EU law, including those concerning wine certification, to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association was pleased with our plans to issue an easement to the need for VI-1 certificates to accompany imports of wines from the EU. It also welcomes the introduction of a simplified VI-1 certificate—the arrangements for the EU and UK wine trade that were set out in the trade and co-operation agreement at the end of last year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs treats the geographical indications regime very seriously. The UK has a proud and growing food reputation and GIs play an important role as exemplars of our quality producers. We are committed to celebrating the success of those products and driving further market access to ensure that they are enjoyed around the world, as symbolised by our new UK scheme logos.

It is right that we put the correct legislation in place and that we took steps to correct the error as soon as possible. I am always delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss other aspects of our wine trade—both import and export—whenever we can find a convenient date.

I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Audiovisual Media Services (Amendment) Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Julie Elliott

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

† Dinenage, Caroline (Minister for Digital and Culture)

Docherty, Leo (Aldershot) (Con)

Lamont, John (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (Con)

McDonnell, John (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab)

Mann, Scott (North Cornwall) (Con)

Morris, James (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

† Onwurah, Chi (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)

Osamor, Kate (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op)

Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

Rees, Christina (Neath) (Lab/Co-op)

† Rimmer, Ms Marie (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab)

Rutley, David (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

† Stone, Jamie (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

Thomson, Richard (Gordon) (SNP)

† Throup, Maggie (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

† Tomlinson, Michael (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

Chloe Freeman, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 19 April 2021

[Julie Elliott in the Chair]

Draft Audiovisual Media Services (Amendment) Regulations 2021

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Audiovisual Media Services (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

This instrument, laid in both Houses on 25 February, is being made under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The regulations remedy certain failures of retained EU law arising from the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. Through this statutory instrument, we are seeking to address minor and technical issues in domestic law following the transposition of the audiovisual media services directive by the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2020. It is necessary to ensure that the law remains fit for purpose beyond the end of the transition period.

The regulations amend references to EU legislation, substituting domestic law references where appropriate and making references to EU legislation ambulatory where appropriate. They also remove the requirement for Ofcom to notify the European Commission of in-scope services falling within the UK’s jurisdiction and address Ofcom’s co-operation with EU member state regulators. These regulations were debated and approved by the House of Lords on 13 April.

I would like now to look quickly at the regulations in a little more detail. The EU’s audiovisual media services directive, known as the AVMS directive, governs the co-ordination of national legislation on audiovisual media services. It was initially implemented into UK law in 2010, primarily by way of amendments to UK broadcasting legislation. The UK’s Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2020, which transposed the revised AVMS directive, were made and laid in Parliament on 30 September.

The 2020 regulations came into force on 1 November last year; for the first time, they introduced rules for video-sharing platform services. The Government have appointed Ofcom as the regulator for video-sharing platforms falling under the UK’s jurisdiction. The rules ensure that platforms that have the required connection with the UK have appropriate systems and processes to protect the public, including minors, from illegal and harmful material. “Required connection with the UK” means that the platform provider is established in the UK or that a group undertaking of the provider is established in the UK and the service is not regulated by another EEA country. In those circumstances, Ofcom will have jurisdiction to regulate the video-sharing platform service.

The three requirements placed on video-sharing platforms under the 2020 regulations are: first, to take appropriate measures to protect minors from content harmful to those under 18 years of age; secondly, to take appropriate measures to protect the general public from harmful and certain illegal content; and thirdly, to introduce standards around advertising.

Ofcom has published guidance on scope and jurisdiction. It is also continuing to actively engage with platforms that may be in scope of the regime. In March this year, Ofcom published draft guidance for consultation on the list of measures that video-sharing platforms can take to protect users from harmful material. More vigorous regulation will commence once all guidance on video-sharing platform regulation has been published later this year.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Elliott, and I welcome the rest of the Committee to this important statutory instrument. I thank the Minister for her opening remarks—here we are again, talking about audiovisual regulation without there being any online safety Bill in statute or in sight.

To begin with, I declare an interest: as the Minister is aware, before I entered Parliament I spent six years working for Ofcom as head of technology. As she mentioned, Ofcom has responsibility with regard to this SI. During my time there, it had responsibility for regulating broadcast audiovisual services and some responsibility for online audiovisual media services, which were beginning to grow in importance—although not always legally. Online audiovisual media services were nowhere near as widespread or important then as they have since become, and they have been especially critical during the pandemic. Video-sharing platforms, or VSPs, which are the core of the SI, have become a major presence in the lives of many people in this country—just look at TikTok or YouTube.

The SI follows on from two SIs of the same name that were laid in November and September 2020 and which put the UK’s obligations in line with the European Union’s audiovisual media services directive—AVMSD— in preparation for the end of the transition period at the end of last year. As the Minister said, the AVMSD introduced three key requirements for VSPs: to take measures to protect minors from content that is harmful to those under 18; to take appropriate measures to protect the general public from harmful and illegal content; and to introduce standards on advertising. It is notable that we are dependent on the directive for regulation because we do not have online harms legislation, and I want to emphasise that AVMSD should not be used as a replacement for robust UK online safety legislation.

As the Minister said, the SI makes technical changes to the definition of terms and to Ofcom’s duties as a regulator, and it could potentially impact on the UK-EU working relationship. The SI includes changes to the definition of “European works”. As part of the AVMSD’s attempt to strengthen the competitiveness of the European audiovisual industry and to promote cultural diversity and heritage in Europe—I am sure they are ambitions that we all support—the European Union identified “European works”. Such works are both linear and on-demand audiovisual media products. Under the AVMSD, 30% of on-demand programming services must be European works, so the SI laid in November brought that quota into UK law.

For a product to qualify as a European work, it must originate in a member state or third-party state, or have been co-produced within a framework of agreements between the EU and third countries. My understanding is that UK productions currently qualify as European works because the UK continues to be a signatory to the European convention on transfrontier television, and I hope the Minister will confirm that.

The changes made by the SI allow the definition of European works in UK law to adapt to and adopt unilateral changes to the definition of European works by the European Union. On the one hand, this allows flexibility and removes potential legislative barriers that may arise in the future, but on the other hand, it raises concerns over sovereignty, which I am sure the Minister remembers was a key issue in the Brexit debate. Should the European Union change the definition of European works to exclude audiovisual works created in third-party states and by signatories to the European convention on transfrontier television, I believe such a change would be automatically adopted into UK law, leaving UK audiovisual works outside the 30% quota. That could create a circumstance whereby UK audiovisual products are at a disadvantage and are not considered part of European works.

Can the Minister confirm whether any changes made by the EU to the definition of European works will be automatically transposed into UK law? If such a circumstance occurred, how quickly and by what means would the Government act to ensure that UK products are not placed at a disadvantage? It highlights the fact that, although we are still using European Union definitions, we have no say in how those definitions evolve. What guarantees has she received from the European Union that future changes to the definition of European works will not lead to the UK being excluded? What assessment has she made of the impact of such an exclusion, should it happen? Will unilateral changes by the European Union to the definition of European works be addressed in the forthcoming online safety Bill, which we have heard so much about even though we have yet to see even a draft?

I would hope that future negotiations between the European Union and the UK ensure ongoing agreement on this definition. However, it is clear from the draft regulations that the relationship with respect to the definition of European works is not reciprocal: the UK has adopted the European Union’s definition without the European Union being forced to reflect or adopt any changes that the UK could make; I am not sure that in this case it could make any.

Back in November, I raised jurisprudence issues. Under the current rules, a VSP will come under UK jurisdiction if it has a fixed establishment in the UK and the centre of its economic activity relating to the relevant service is based in the UK, not in an EU member state. If the VSP is not established in the UK and no EU member state has jurisdiction over it, it will come under UK jurisdiction if it has a group undertaking established in the UK. The draft regulations and the AVMSD fail to provide a level playing field for online and offline services: they do not protect UK citizens from harmful content, either specifically for VSPs that do not have a group undertaking in the UK or generally, whereas offline broadcast services in the UK are subject to UK regulation.

A significant gap has opened up in online safety legislation. UK citizens and consumers are not adequately protected from harms under the current jurisprudence and regulatory regime, and the draft regulations do nothing to address that. Analysis commissioned by the Government shows that under the current rules-of-origin approach to jurisprudence, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Dailymotion and Twitter are all outside the UK’s regulatory scope. What are the Government doing to build the regulatory framework that will protect UK citizens online? What role will the draft regulations play in that? I am sure that the Minister will refer to the online safety Bill; we look forward to more details on the timetable of its passage.

The Government may have left the UK without the regulatory framework that we need, but they have assigned it a regulator, as we heard from the Minister. We do not know how broad Ofcom’s regulatory responsibilities will be—presumably they will be fleshed out in the online safety Bill, which we have yet to see—but the draft regulations do tell us one thing: Ofcom will not have a duty to inform the European Union of breaches of the AVMSD, because its duty to inform has been scaled back to a power that it “may” exercise. I understand that that is because EU states are not mandated to inform Ofcom of a breach, so the Government have decided to remove Ofcom’s mandate to inform European Union states.

I think we can all agree that we would be safer if breaches were reported globally: one of the challenges of regulation in the online world is that it requires global co-operation and collaboration. The decision to stop Ofcom reporting breaches to the European Union has been made because we cannot obtain a reciprocal agreement. Did the Government seek to ensure reciprocity on the sharing of data breaches and of breach data? Have they assessed the impact of the decision on the flow of information between regulators? Failure to ensure that reciprocity is a failure of Government, and it could have implications for the UK’s online safety relationship with the European Union, making us more vulnerable. I am concerned in particular that it may affect the information our regulator receives from friends and partner agencies in Europe. Will the Minister say a little about the future working relationship between UK regulators—Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office, for example—and European Union state regulators, particularly on reciprocity? Will she promise no regression in the sharing of information that may keep us safe online?

I have already touched on the reason why this is so important: the UK lacks any robust online harms legislation. The online safety Bill has been a decade in the making. It is startling to think that from 2010, starting with the coalition, the Government have presided over dramatic changes in the role of the internet, the web and the online world in our lives, but we have yet to see any online safety legislation. It took them nearly two years to issue a full response to their own consultation on the matter, despite huge increases in online threats because of the pandemic. I raised the threat of child abuse, online scams and misinformation in November, when I think we all agreed that legislation was way overdue. Six months later, we still have nothing beyond the promise of a reference in the Queen’s Speech. I hope that the regulations are not a further sticking plaster to hide the Government’s delaying on such a vital issue and that further delays will not materialise. The Minister’s Department has stated that the online safety Bill will supersede the regulations, but as that Bill will probably not become law for another year, we have another year of uncertainty. Has the Minister assessed the impact that such uncertainty is having on the audiovisual sector?

Labour will not oppose the regulations because we do not believe that the Government can legislate quickly enough to address threats to online safety and jurisdiction concerns. However, we are greatly concerned about the holes in the UK’s regulatory framework and the path that the Government are taking with our future relationship with the European Union, which should be one of collaboration and co-operation on the key subject of online safety. We need reassurance that the UK and the EU will work closely together without interruption or confusion, confirmation that the Government will prioritise the wellbeing of the UK audiovisual sector, and robust and substantial regulatory legislation to protect us online.

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. First, she mentioned Ofcom’s duty, as opposed to a power, to co-operate with EU regulators and suggested that that could result in uncertainty regarding enforcement platforms whose services are used in the UK. In the post-transition period, co-operation continues to be of the utmost importance. The regulations provide Ofcom with the power to co-operate and collaborate with its EU member state counterparts. That is crucial, as she said, because we need to have to have that co-operation to keep people safe.

Co-operation and sharing of information between national regulatory authorities is really helpful in enabling authorities to fulfil their functions in the most effective and coherent way. Ofcom will be able to use the power to co-operate in a number of circumstances, including: co-ordinating enforcement action; ensuring substantial cross-border compliance; exchanging regulatory best practice, which we all want to adopt; and, most importantly, addressing jurisdictional matters such as determining where a provider is established, which will ensure that UK users are protected from illegal material that appears on a video-sharing platform that is not regulated by the UK.

In the absence of this statutory instrument, Ofcom will be able to engage only in non-specific informal co-operation with other EU regulators—things such as exchanging regulatory best practice, rather than, for example, co-ordinating enforcement action. This could result in a lack of transparency between regulators and lead to less effective protection of UK users, including, crucially, minors.

Although this instrument does not guarantee that EU counterparts will reciprocate and co-operate with Ofcom, these regulations show a willingness on behalf of the UK Government that Ofcom should engage and promote collaboration in this really important area of online safety. There should be no regression in reciprocity. It is really important to keep us all safe online. Leaving a duty to co-operate in place would be inappropriate because of the lack of reciprocity from EU member states, and would provide no incentives for EU national regulatory authorities to co-operate with Ofcom.

I thank the Minister for her comments, which are enlightening. Were there discussions around maintaining a mutual reciprocal duty to co-operate on this issue?

I will drop the hon. Lady a line on that because I do not know for sure. She asked how long this will last and how it works in relation to the online safety Bill. As she knows, we are working at pace to prepare the legislation. It will be ready shortly and she will be able to cast her eyes over it in the near future. In the meantime, we are working closely with Ofcom and will continue to engage with parliamentarians as we prepare the legislation.

Of course, we recognise the importance of being online and the benefits that that brings, but we have seen most poignantly during the coronavirus period how online safety can be a major concern. There are serious risks that users, particularly children, currently face when they are online. It has been brought to a head over the past year, and the prevalence of illegal and harmful content and activity online is unacceptable and has become more so. We have made clear our intention to repeal the video-sharing platform regime in part 4B of the Communications Act 2003 once the more comprehensive online harms regime comes into force.

In the interim, through regulating and engaging with video-sharing platforms, Ofcom will have the unique opportunity to understand the potential challenges and opportunities to be harnessed with systems regulation. These vital learnings, combined with the scope to engage with UK-established video-sharing platforms, will no doubt strengthen the online harms regime once it comes into force.

This instrument ensures that the law remains clear and operable. It is required to remedy the failures of retained EU law arising from the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The instrument will allow Ofcom to progress the implementation of the video-sharing platform regime and provide protections for UK users, especially minors.

The UK and EU have similar objectives, and we continue to share similar values when it comes to protecting users online. Through the introduction of a power to co-operate, we are signalling our commitment to working with our European and international partners. This engagement will strengthen our ability to keep UK users protected from illegal and harmful material on video-sharing platforms not established in the UK ahead of the upcoming online safety legislation.

I thank the Minister for her comments. I also asked about European works and whether the definition of European works could be changed to exclude the UK at a future date.

Committee rose.