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

I am coming to that, so if the hon. Gentleman can be patient for a second, he will learn all about it.

Let me turn to copyright, which is one of the most controversial bits of the legislation. We have made it clear on numerous occasions that we are very keen to do all that we can to support the creative industries, which are developing faster than any other part of the economy. We genuinely believe that they will be one of the key drivers to get us out of the recession and to help this country's economy move forward. We are therefore deeply concerned about anything that will prevent that from happening.

We are well aware that a report was published only a few weeks ago, on 17 March, that predicted 250,000 jobs in the UK's creative industries could be lost by 2015 if current trends in online piracy continue. The Secretary of State has already referred to the hundreds of millions of pounds that are being lost to our music, video games and film industries because of illegal activity on the internet. We do not share the view of those who believe that no action should be taken to address the problems caused by copyright infringements on the internet, but the problem is that the Government's solution is predominantly encompassed in clause 17-an all-embracing clause that gives huge new unfettered powers to a future Secretary of State to address such issues. We felt that that Henry VIII clause was a step too far. The Secretary of State rightly acknowledged that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives in another place ensured that that clause was dropped, but that does not mean to say that something should not be done. The early clauses-those up to clause 17-contain measures to address the problem created by illegal peer-to-peer file sharing, which is responsible for about two thirds of the illegal activity currently taking place.

As a result of lengthy discussions in another place, several changes were made to the Government's original proposals. They mean that no so-called technical measures, such as bandwidth shaping or temporary account suspension, will be possible unless copyright infringers are notified by letter, without there being any risk of their internet connection being affected for at least a year-the Secretary of State rightly mentioned that-unless an evaluation of the effectiveness of soft measures is undertaken; unless an evaluation of the need for, and likely effectiveness of, technical measures has been completed; unless further consultation has taken place; unless proposed legislation is brought before the new Parliament for decision; and, crucially, unless the principle of innocence until proven guilty is maintained throughout the process, coupled with the right to appeal to an independent arbiter. There has therefore been significant progress, but even more needs to be done if this aspect of the Bill is to be acceptable, so I shall propose three additional measures.

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