Report (2nd Day)
Digital Economy Bill [HL]
Lord Whitty (Labour)
I am most disappointed with that response. The first part of what the noble Lord said is quite right. I agree that the evidence needs to be subject to appeal and that there should be an appeals tribunal to check the process, the evidence, the association of various offences under one address, and the title. All that can be dealt with by an administrative tribunal. However, my understanding of sanctions at this level is that the term "judicial tribunal" would not apply to the tribunal that is set up indirectly by the Bill. It is important that the Minister should let us know, before the Bill completes its passage through the House-or, if necessary, in another place-quite how the tribunal is to be constituted. Would it have legal representation? If, as the Minister said at the end of his remarks, it is genuinely equivalent to a court, I might at least consider the argument. At the moment, it seems that there is no parallel situation where, at the final point of imposing a sanction, there is no ability to appear before a court.
The noble Lord referred to this as a "graduated approach". It is a one-step graduated approach-from warning through to second and third warnings, but straight from there to imposing sanctions which could be very detrimental to the subscriber-and, as I said, it will operate regardless of whether the subscriber is the actual perpetrator. The only suggested equivalent to this is the driving licence. If you get three points on your licence, you do not have a genuinely graduated penalty because that is two or three steps of penalty, and at the last knockings, you can appeal to a court.
I do not think that in any of the sanctions regime operating in our legal system, either civil or criminal, there is an exact equivalent to this. It therefore has wider implications than the providence of this Bill. If there are equivalents and if the nature of the tribunal is such that it is genuinely the equal of a court, will my noble friend spell that out to me and to other noble Lords before Third Reading? If he can manage to convince me, that is fine, but I have seen nothing which would do that at this point. If he cannot convince me, I will want to return to this issue at Third Reading-even if I bring nothing else back. I hope that other noble Lords will themselves consider the implications of this-in particular, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has said, the Front Benchers and Ministers. In my judgment, we are taking quite a significant step here. I hope that the noble Lord can convince me in the interim, but at this point I certainly have not been convinced. I shall withdraw the amendment so that we can proceed with the Bill, but I am deeply worried about these provisions as they stand.
Amendment 103 (to Amendment 100) withdrawn.
Amendment 104 (to Amendment 100) not moved.
Amendment 100 agreed.
Clause 14 : Enforcement of obligations
Amendments 105 to 107
Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green
105: Clause 14, page 16, line 44, after "provider" insert "or copyright owner on whom the penalty is imposed"
106: Clause 14, page 17, line 1, after "provider" insert "or owner"
107: Clause 14, page 17, line 4, after "provider" insert "or owner"
Amendments 105 to 107 agreed.
Clause 15 : Sharing of costs
Amendment 108 not moved.
Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green
109: Clause 15, page 17, line 23, leave out from "to" to end of line 24 and insert "a subscriber appeal or a further appeal by a subscriber to the First-tier Tribunal, the subscriber."
Amendment 109 agreed.
Moved by Baroness Howe of Idlicote
110: Clause 15, page 17, line 29, at end insert-
"( ) payment by an internet service provider of a contribution towards the costs that a copyright owner incurs in generating copyright infringement reports"