Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 6:17 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Labour, Great Grimsby 6:17 pm, 6th April 2010

It is rather sad that we should devote one of the last major debates of this Parliament to such a sprawling rag-bag of a Bill. It is difficult to get a solid core to bite on and a solid argument to put, because it is very much like the curate's television. It is good in parts, but has large areas of dross and boredom and is bad in other parts. It is therefore difficult to come to any conclusion other than the one that a number of Labour Members have argued-that we should delay consideration until a better time when we can give the Bill more serious concern and preoccupation.

I heard all the Secretary of State's answers about how the House of Lords has devoted its usual frenzied, hectic consideration to the Bill, full-time, for months and months, and how the Government have conducted a full consultation with all the outside interests. However, I am suspicious, because if it has had such full consideration, why are so many of my hon. Friends upset at the speed at which it is going through? Why am I getting more e-mails than I can competently deal with now that I am in half-campaigning mode, saying, "This is a bad Bill. Stop it. We don't want it and we are threatened", from people more active and interested in the internet than I am?

The e-mails are mainly from young people, who feel threatened by the Bill. They may be wrong, they may not be threatened by it and the procedures for cutting off their access through the service provider may be fair, just, wholesome and very effective, but they still feel threatened. It will take time to explain things to them, and to examine their worries and discuss them. When I have replied to their e-mails, their answer has always been, "This is a Bill on which the big boys, the big corporations and the big businesses, which are now involved in the internet, have all been well consulted. Their voices have been well heard and they have dominated the consideration of the Bill. It is far too favourable to them and far too unfavourable to the little guy." The little guy-in particular, the people indulging in harmless file sharing out of interest-is how the people writing to me see themselves.

That is a complex argument, but it is true that the big corporations and big business have loud voices and that the House of Lords is a natural forum for the expression of those loud voices and opinions. When discussing the Bill we have talked about peer-to-peer transfers, but peer-to-vested-interest transfers are a major part of the process.

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