Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 5:26 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 5:26 pm, 6th April 2010

It is totally inappropriate for a Bill as important as this to be given so little time for debate in this House. I should remind the House that it would have been possible to handle this rather differently. After all, there were lengthy deliberations in another place, but all stages were completed some three weeks ago, on 15 March. Since then, there have been many days when we could have debated the Bill, and I am particularly mindful of the fact that the business allocated by the Government's business managers collapsed early on a number of those days. Surely that is another reason why it would be a good idea to have a Back-Bench committee deciding the business of the House.

Notwithstanding my concern about that, I reject the view expressed by some that only a few elements of the Bill have universal support and are not especially contentious. In fact, I believe that large chunks of the Bill are important but not controversial, and that they should go through. An example would be the proposal, to which reference has already been made, to change the power of the Secretary of State in relation to internet domain registries. Another example, which has not been mentioned so far, is the proposal to extend the remit of Channel 4.

Another example that has been touched on but not developed is the proposal to adopt the pan-European games information classification system for video games, and another that has not been mentioned before is the proposal to change the definition of public lending rights to include audio books and e-books. All those important measures, and many others, are in the Bill. There is a great deal of support for them, and I hope that we will find a way to get them through.

I do not want to go into detail about any of those proposals, but the one to extend the remit of Channel 4 is particularly important. Clauses 22 and 23 are designed to update Channel 4's remit to reflect the changing nature of public service broadcasting in a digital age. The House should recall that, when it was launched, Channel 4 was a single, analogue, linear television channel, whereas today it has a suite of channels and services that includes E4, Film4 and channel4.com.

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