Digital Economy, the aftermath
J and I stuck the TV on at a quarter to nine last night to watch the third reading of the Digital Economy bill. There was much to-ing and fro-ing, but two consistent themes emerged: 1) the bill is/was far too broad in its powers given its stated purpose; and 2) this should have gone to the Commons earlier. It was ready for scrutiny, apparently, right after the Christmas break. Instead we get it the night before the prorogation (wonderful parliamentary word) of Parliament, and about half of its clauses skimmed without discussion because the House ran out of time. It was embarrassingly transparent how much of a rush job was going on, really.
The only good thing I can take from this is that there was actually a lot of sense being talked in the chamber, by Labour backbenchers, by the Lib Dems, even a couple of Tories. So the guff the Rt Hon Stephen Timms kept spouting about ‘broad cross-party consensus’ was pretty see-through – of those who cared about the bill enough to show up, there clearly wasn’t a consensus, and that showed in the final vote.
The hall was pretty empty for the debate – maybe fifty/sixty people present – but the final division saw 236 votes, just over one-third of the House. The bill passed 189 to 47.
It is a stupid, stupid, badly-written, over-broad, invitingly misappliable law, the mutant lovechild of Peter Mandelson and the record industry, and it is now law. Well, crap. I think the best we can now hope for is either a) substantial amendments under the new government (possible from a coalition, unlikely from the Tories) or b) the creation of a good regulator to make sure that the powers of the bill aren’t misused. I’m not holding my breath for either, but there’s no point screaming about its passage now: it’s through, we have to deal with it.
Labour Abbott, Ms Diane – Burgon, Colin – Challen, Colin – Corbyn, Jeremy – Dismore, Mr. Andrew – Drew, Mr. David (Lab/co-op) – Gerrard, Mr. Neil – Grogan, Mr. John – Hoey, Kate – Howarth, rh Mr. George – Jones, Lynne – Joyce, Eric – Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter – Lazarowicz, Mark (Lab/co-op) – Love, Mr. Andrew (Lab/co-op) – Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert – Mitchell, Mr. Austin – Palmer, Dr. Nick – Reed, Mr. Andy (Lab/co-op) – Simpson, Alan – Todd, Mr. Mark – Truswell, Mr. Paul – Watson, Mr. Tom
Total: 23 (of 345)
Conservative Amess, Mr. David – Cash, Mr. William – Chope, Mr. Christopher – Davis, rh Mr. David – Fallon, Mr. Michael
Total: 5 (of 193)
Liberal Democrat Barrett, John – Beith, rh Sir Alan – Breed, Mr. Colin – Burstow, Mr. Paul – Carmichael, Mr. Alistair – Davey, Mr. Edward – Featherstone, Lynne – Foster, Mr. Don – Hancock, Mr. Mike – Harris, Dr. Evan – Howarth, David – Hughes, Simon – Keetch, Mr. Paul – Öpik, Lembit – Russell, Bob – Thurso, John
Total: 17 (of 63)
Plus Davies, Mr. Dai (Independent) – Paisley, rh Rev. Ian (Democratic Unionists) – Price, Adam (Plaid Cymru)