Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:03 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Eric Joyce Eric Joyce Labour, Falkirk 9:03 pm, 6th April 2010

I am very pleased to be able to follow a number of high-quality speeches. It seems to me that everyone said more or less the same thing, which is that this is much-needed legislation and that it is flawed. Some people think it should go through anyway and that if it is flawed, we will fix it later, whereas other people think that it should not. I belong to the latter group. Mr. Redwood encapsulated much of what I think. I could almost splice what he said with what my hon. Friends the Members for Selby (Mr. Grogan) and for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Watson) said and sit down. However, I will not, as everybody will be pleased to hear.

I want to reflect on a couple of points made by those on the Front Benches. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State started out by saying, "We have not had much time. What a pity; I wish we could have had more." That strikes me as being a bit like the referee at a Celtic-Rangers football match watching Celtic score a goal in the first minute and then promptly blowing the whistle for full time and saying, "Sorry guys, I wish we had a bit longer, but there it is. It's getting a bit dark. Maybe we should have started the match a little earlier." Much as every Celtic supporter at the moment would probably like that to be the case, I do not think that would work.

The Conservative Front-Bench spokesman made a perfectly logical and correct point about the problem that photographers have with clause 43. That problem is widely known about; indeed, I think that the Government have probably already accepted it. They are then going to railroad the whole thing through.

The Liberal Democrats' Front-Bench position is a little more opaque. I am not exactly sure what they are saying because their excellent hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) raised what seemed to be countervailing points of his own. They seem to have left things at saying that it is still possible for clause 43 to be amended in some way, although nobody else agrees with that now that it has gone, but the Lib Dems seem to want to keep it alive. I say the Lib Dems as a plural, but only one person from the Lib Dems has spoken tonight-their Front-Bench spokesman. The massed ranks of the Lib Dems on Twitter have not bothered to come along to support him. Instead, they are saying the opposite all over the internet.

The Liberal Democrats also seem to have left open the possibility of people being disconnected from the internet without their having access to any kind of court proceedings. I know that I have been the beneficiary of some crowdsourcing about this on the internet. The HADOPI case in France, of 10 June 2009, has been raised by the Law Society of Scotland in this regard. That case led the French to amend their legislation to ensure that if people were going to be disconnected, they would have a chance to test that decision in court.

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