Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 7:41 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 7:41 pm, 6th April 2010

That would be most unusual. I have served on a good many order-making Committees in my time, and one of the most unsatisfactory things is that it is a take-it-or-leave-it process and the Government always say to vote to take it. So we can argue an extremely fine case and say that sentence 3 should be rephrased in the Government's interest, and they will still do absolutely nothing about it because the junior Minister does not have the power or the interest and intends to ram the order through in its current form. That naturally leads to suspicion, most obviously among hon. Members, but also outside the House. If we leave all the big judgment calls on the censorship of the web-this is really about censorship-to a set of orders that we cannot see and do not know about, it is asking too much, this close to a general election. This is extremely sloppy work, which we all find very worrying.

I am glad that my hon. Friends who sit on the Front Bench find some things in the Bill with which they profoundly disagree. I am tempted to say that the Government should take the whole thing back and do their homework properly, and it would be for the new Government to sort all this out when they are chosen by the British people on 6 May, but I understand that the mood of the House is to try to reach some kind of accommodation. I urge my hon. Friends to be extremely firm, because we have absolutely no need to take half-baked and ill thought-out legislation from the Government this late in the day, when it is their fault that we are in this position, as they had five years and a thumping great majority to put any sensible proposals through the House that could have come to the relief of the creative industries. They chose not to do that, and they are now attempting to bounce us at 5 minutes after midnight, when it is already well known that the House is closing down with the current management and all will be put out to the electorate to decide who should run it in the future.

My hon. Friend Mr. Hunt, who initiated the debate for the Opposition, very wisely said that the Government are showing their true socialist colours and that all they ever believe in is more taxes, and there is more tax in this legislation, more regulation, and there is tons more regulation for Ofcom of a kind to be specified later in orders, and more subsidy, when all else fails or when they are trying to do something that the market and the general public are not sufficiently interested in for it to be a commercial proposition. The Bill has all three elements. That is surely another reason why my hon. Friends who sit on the Front Bench should be extremely sceptical about allowing great chunks of the legislation through, when there is concern outside and a lack of precision in the legislation, when these unwelcome features will intrude into an area of business and social life that is a great success in this country under the current regime, which is perhaps a little chaotic, and when we should be proud of so much achievement in the world of the web and in the creative industries that we see outside.

Unfortunately, my time is up. I wanted to speak about half a dozen other important elements of the Bill, but I am not allowed to do so, only because the Government, once again, so hate the House of Commons that they will not give us time to consider these measures properly.

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