Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:11 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Adam Afriyie Adam Afriyie Shadow Minister (Science and Innovation) 9:11 pm, 6th April 2010

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that correction. He gave a considered and balanced view. He was pleased with the reserve powers for Nominet, and concerned about internet safety issues. He was remarkably open to market mechanisms, or other ways of enabling internet access that did not require cumbersome legislation. I very much welcomed those comments and the fact that he wanted to avoid intervention on a large scale.

Mr. Foster, the Lib Dem Front-Bench spokesman, observed that there were some good parts to the Bill, but that the failure to have proper scrutiny was making life difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed the acrobatics he described when reconciling presenting an amendment in the Lords and campaigning against it the following morning. I am surprised he did not bump his head on the bath.

Derek Wyatt paid tribute to Lord Carter-I think he referred to him as Lord Carter of Paris-and was particularly concerned about whether the Bill recognised the importance of next generation high-speed internet access, akin to ambitions in China and India. The hon. Gentleman said clearly that he felt the Bill lacked vision and that it was a missed opportunity on Channel 4. Like several other Members, the hon. Gentleman observed that it was his last speech in the House of Commons. We wish them well in their life beyond this place. What was most significant about his contribution was that he considered the practical measures that would have made the Bill better legislation.

My hon. Friend Mr. Whittingdale, who is Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said that the lack of scrutiny might well lead to a lack of legitimacy-that is an important point to hold on to-and that proving identity would be difficult in relation to university students in halls of residence and internet cafés.

Mr. Mitchell used an interesting term about the Bill. He said that the process and the ragbag of measures were akin to dross and that he had serious concerns about the digital switchover.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire, who is the Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, said that the legislation would have a great impact on the economy, society and culture of Britain and that this was the least constitutionally satisfactory process in his entire time in Parliament. That says a lot, as he has been a Member for a long time, and that sentiment was echoed by many other hon. Members. He recognised the balance between freedom of expression and creativity and the absence of a definition of what 2 megabits per second actually means. That is an important observation, because if such speeds are only sporadically available, even though the headline rate is 2 megabits per second, many of the activities that we wish to undertake on broadband simply will not come about.

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