If the UK Parliament had hoped to end this term with any sense of credibility, it has spectacularly failed. Yesterday, lit up by the Internet for the second night in a row as thousands of newcomers watched, Parliament showed just how corrupt it has become. On the orders of the unelected Minister, Lord Peter Mandelson, it ramrodded through a law that has widespread implications for the Internet and for UK citizens.
Any concern for those citizens, who will be voting for a Parliament in 6 weeks time, was thrown aside. The experience of watching Parliament on the Digital Economy Bill was like riding through a sewer in a glass bottomed boat.
It demonstrates how not just the government, but all Parties, have fallen into the pay of the powerful entertainment and music companies. And how the Trade Unions have worked their way back to control the Labour Party in a quite unexpected way.
The 3rd Reading of the Digital Economy Bill started at 8.53 London time yesterday. By 11.29, it ended. In between was a sham debate, where any attempt to turn this appalling document into a decent piece of law was thwarted.
From the beginning, a number of backbench MPs expressed concern that there was a front-bench stitch-up. It appears that a deal was done between Labour and the Conservatives in advance, and Liberal Democrat opposition - which was fairly weak anyway - was simply walked over.
The deal was that Clause
43 on orphan works was dropped, but the Labour version of the website blocking clause remained in, as did all of the 3-strikes clauses, including 'technical measures' for automated blocking and throttling.
This means that the photographers' lobby got what it wanted, but the Internet users were just simply trodden on. Why? I had not realised until last night, that Dennis McShane, former head of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) was a Labour MP. THe NUJ backed the photographers in their Stop Clause 43 campaign. The Trade Union Congress (TUC), which bankrolls the Labour party, backed the Bill as a whole, and funded a public campaign, the so-called Creative Artists coalition. (The NUJ is TUC member).
The Conservatives say they will revisit the DEBill if any aspects prove not to work. But Internet users should not be lulled into any sense of reassurance. This statement is not aimed at them. Those who followed the EU Telecoms Package will have seen it in the European Parliament, what a Conservative politician means when he says he will re-work something for user safeguards. It means the exact opposite.
What was also finally confirmed last night by the Minister Stephen Timms was how the detail of the technical measures will be in a code drawn up by Ofcom in conjunction with the industry. He did not say citizens and I don't think it had even entered his mind that they should be part of the process. Timms claimed that the code for technical measures requires consent of Secretary of State and they would not give it if it would harm libraries, universities etc.
Stephen Timms is being disingenuous. Firstly, he may not be in power, so he may have no opportunity to oversee what happens. Secondly, the Secretary of State, whoever it will be after the election, is not the same thing as Parliament.
Parliament will not get to scrutinise, or even see, the Codes.
An attempt was made by Tom Watson to table amendments, but they all had to be withdrawn - I do not understand why. Mr Watson pointed out that Clause 11 gives the Secretary of State the right to order technical measures, and the way he explained it, he could order them at his own discretion, and act abusively.T his is worrying - I had not realised that Clause 11 gave the Secretary of State direct powers to order technical measures individually. Technical measures means throttling, and blocking.
Stephen Timms said no-one will be subjected to technical measures until they have had " a number " of letters - how many?
Don Foster of the LibDems, I felt as an onlooker, was very irritating. He kept accusing Mr Watson, instead of accusing the government - why? Watching his actions in the debate, it looked to me like he was colluding with the government and the Conservatives in their 3-way deal, and embarrassed by his party who internally voted to oppose the Bill.
You can check here to see if your MP was there . Mine - Theresa May, shadow employment spokesperson, was not there, but I could see that anyway as I know what she looks like.
Here is a summary of the outcome by Charles Arthur, technology writer on The Guardian
Charles Arthur also wrote a live blog of the Digital Economy bill in Parliament last night which is worth reading.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2010) DE Bill rammed through UK Parliament in 2 hours http://www.iptegrity.com 8 April 2010