Kim Leadbeater MP 'livid' over decision to delay Zach's Law online safety bill

Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater says she is livid after the “disgusting” decision to put internet safety laws inspired by a boy from Spen on hold.

By Adam Cheshire
Friday, 5th August 2022, 6:00 am

Ms Leadbeater has written to the Secretary of State demanding to know what is going to happen with Zach’s Law after the Government’s decision to delay the passing of the Online Safety Bill until the Autumn.

Zach Eagling, who is 11 and from Hartshead, suffers with epilepsy and cerebral palsy, and was the victim of abuse after being deliberately sent flashing images online, which triggered seizures.

Ms Leadbeater has since led the motion for Zach’s Law, which is designed to protect people with epilepsy from online harm, and was backed by MPs from all political parties.

Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater with Zach Eagling

However, it has been announced that until a new Prime Minister is in place, the Online Safety Bill’s passing has been delayed.

Ms Leadbeater said: “It’s dreadful the Government have just dropped the online safety bill.

“I sat on that bill committee and we put hours and hours of work into that and they have now decided, because we are in the middle of this leadership competition, that it is now going to get kicked into the long grass until the Autumn.

“That is disgusting because we have had a lot of briefings from people like the NSPCC, Barnardo’s and other children’s charities who really need this piece of legislation.

“Where is Zach’s Law going to end up?

"He has been the victim of this dreadful practice – it really is unbelievable. He is a really, really, lovely young man, absolutely delightful. You can’t get your head around it.

“This is something that I will be pushing for in Parliament. I have written to the Secretary of State, Nadine Dorries, about it. We have to get that in law.”

Ms Leadbeater, who has campaigned on the issues of civility in public life and safety in public life since her sister Jo Cox was killed in 2016, knows there is more work to be done in keeping people safe from harm.

She said: “There are different layers to this. Part of this is about the safety of people who are elected into public office, whether that is an MP or a councillor, but it is also about how we treat each other in society more generally and a lot of that is online now.

“We are seeing a lot of anger directed at elected officials because they feel that they are not being properly represented, that they are too detached from people's real lives.

“But we also see that anger and frustration directed at celebrities and, sadly, particularly since lockdown, more and more of that anger is directed at other people who are just doing their daily jobs, whether that’s taxi drivers or shop workers or people working for the NHS.

“So I think that we have got to have a conversation about how we deal with the frustrations people have got and the anger that people have got and how that is directed in a helpful way rather than taking our frustrations out on people where it isn’t their fault.

“Equally, politicians have a responsibility to behave responsibly and there is something called the Nolan Principles which are the principles of public life and within that there are seven things like integrity, honesty, openness, leadership and MPs should read those principles every day and think about whether we are adhering to those.

“It is a stressful and busy job but it is a really privileged job and we have got to a duty to ensure that we are behaving responsibly.

“Until we take a holistic approach to the way that we treat our fellow human beings, I think that there is always going to be work to be done and the social media aspect of that is clearly important.

“One of the positive things about Zach’s Law was that it was cross-party and this doesn’t get covered by the media as much as it should.

“A lot of the good stuff that is done in Government is done on a cross-party basis so there are a lot of MPs who are supporting this.”

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