Mar. 31st, 2010

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The appalling "Digital Economy Bill" I've expressed my concerns about previously is now moving rapidly through the Commons. The current joint proposal from the Labour and Conservative front benches[1] is to shove the bill through next Tuesday basically without any discussion in Parliament, in order to get it passed. I was going to say "get it passed before the election", but frankly, the concern of the parties appears rather close to that of the BPI, who want the bill passed without discussion (an internal BPI memo "cites an expert on legislation as saying that the bill will likely die if MPs insist on their right and responsibility to examine this legislation in detail before voting on it".

That is, the powers behind the bill don't think that MPs would pass it if they looked at it, so the two main parties have agreed to deny MPs the chance to look at it. What can you do about this? Well, before it can go into the "wash-up" (which ex-MP Martin Bell reckons is better described as a stitch-up), it has to pass a vote in the Commons.

38 Degrees is raising money for adverts opposing the bill to be published/broadcast on the morning of the vote; if you feel able, donate.

More important, though, you can write to your MP. Explain that the bill is bad law (there are plenty of detailed links in my previous posts on the subject), and that if it is to be passed at all it must be subject to proper Parliamentary process, not pushed through on the nod. There's also an Early Day Motion opposing the bill and asking for it to undergo proper scrutiny after the election, proposed by two Labour back-benchers, which you can ask your MP to support.

Last but very much not least, please pass the message on and ask other people to do the same things. This bill gives big media companies the power to cut people off from the net on a whim, without evidence; it puts huge burdens on small publishers of all kinds; it creates a power for a member of the government (or anyone they choose to appoint) to introduce basically unlimited secondary legislation; it has no upside (except for existing big media groups).

[1] the Lib Dem front bench had originally agreed to go along with this, but have now changed their minds following pressure from members and back-bench MPs.

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