Labour attacks delays to online safety bill as it highlights Christmas scams

Analysis of police data reveals equivalent of £76m lost to fraud over the festive period, says party

Nearly £80m will be lost to online fraud and scams over the 12 days of Christmas, Labour has said as it criticised ministers for delays over the online safety bill.

Police force data analysed by the party found there were 312 daily incidents of online fraud or cybercrime on average in 2019/20 and 2020/21, with the amount lost to fraud equivalent to £6.36m a day or £76m over the festive period.

Labour hit out at the delay in parliamentary progress of the online safety bill, claiming it was letting fraudsters and criminals off the hook.

The bill has been hit by repeated delays and amendments. It was meant to finish its Commons stages in July. However, the government pulled it at the last minute to hold a confidence vote in Boris Johnson, instead.

The bill has since been held up while ministers re-wrote parts of it, given a row among Conservative MPs that it would unfairly stifle freedom of speech online.

The legislation is meant to strengthen protections for children from harmful online content and curtail content promoting self-harm and hate speech online.

The current parliamentary session, which had been expected to run to May, is being extended to allow the government to pass major pieces of legislation, such as the online safety bill.

Alex Davies-Jones MP, the shadow digital minister, said that the government was letting fraudsters and criminals off, while victims were being let down.

She added: “Despite being the single biggest crime in the UK, the Tory government doesn’t take fraud seriously. Families already struggling to make ends meet are at risk from online fraud and cybercrimes this Christmas.

“Thanks to Labour, the online safety bill will strengthen protections against scammers online, but the entire bill is now at risk because ministers are bowing over to vested interests rather than standing up for consumers.”

The government remains committed to cracking down on fraud and economic crime, a spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said.

The DCMS said £400m would be spent over the next three years to bolster the response by law enforcement agencies, and claimed more than 2.7m online scams had been removed in the past year.

The spokesperson added: “Our world-leading online safety bill, which the government is committed to passing into law, will also place a duty on big tech firms to tackle a wide range of online fraud, including romance scams and fraudulent ads, to make sure the UK is the safest place in the world to be online.”


Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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