Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 8:14 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough 8:14 pm, 6th April 2010

In my maiden speech, I spoke about the human right to read, because it seemed to me that access to the printed word ought to be treated as a human right. One of the interesting aspects of the debate about the internet is the growing recognition that in exactly the same way, because it gives access to information, we should treat the right to access to the internet as a human right, and that if we recognise it as such, we will create a better, more equal, more informed, more educated, better connected society.

I represent a town that generates a huge amount of wealth in the creative industries, and I am very concerned to ensure that creative individuals are properly rewarded for their talent and their contribution. The Secretary of State referred to the growth of the creative industries in the UK compared with that in other countries over the past decade. I was proud to act as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the first ever Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who, I believe, played a critical role in recognising the strength of the creative industries.

We are about to make a mistake, not because of mala fides or bad faith on the part of the Government or the Opposition, but in the way that Parliament often makes its biggest mistakes, which is when all parties agree. In those circumstances, we take short cuts, make mistakes for good reasons-in this case, to protect creative professionals-and end up with bad laws. Many of us can quote examples of bad laws that have been passed. Sometimes they are bad in their execution-the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is frequently cited-and sometimes they are bad because, even though we keep trying to get the legislation right, we do not succeed, even though it is right in theory, such as making fathers pay properly for their children. I do not know why I still have so many such cases turning up at my advice surgery, but I know I am not alone in that regard.

The parts of the Bill which are designed to protect copyright on the internet, to prevent file sharing and so on are hugely at risk of going down that road. I was rather entertained by the comments of Mr. Foster who, at one point, drafted an amendment and within a few hours was campaigning against said amendment. That illustrated the point very well, because he was trying to deal with what he saw as a wrong. It turned out that that was not very popular in his party and the amendment did not do what he wanted it to do, so he tried to amend it again. That is what the Committee stage of a Bill is for.

I am deeply concerned that what we are about- [ Interruption. ] The hon. Member for Bath might agree, but he will be part of the Front-Bench conspiracy that makes us end up with an unamended Bill and without the scrutiny that we need. This Parliament has shown itself to be utterly feeble in so many ways, and in our dying days we really should not continue to be utterly feeble.

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