Lib Dems to fight Digital Economy Bill over 'wash-up'

Lib Dems to fight Digital Economy Bill over 'wash-up'

Summary: The party has told the government it will not support the bill as drafted, as MPs do not have enough time before the election to scrutinise it in detail

TOPICS: Government UK

The Liberal Democrats will try to block the Digital Economy Bill from being fast-tracked into law before the election.

On Tuesday afternoon, the party's chief whip Paul Burstow tweeted that he had told the government the Liberal Democrats will not support the bill as it is drafted because there is "not enough time for MPs to examine it in detail".

The bill is expected to be become part of 'wash-up', a brief period at the end of a sitting parliament when outstanding legislation becomes the subject of back-room deals between the main two parties, the Conservatives and Labour.

Although the Digital Economy Bill has gone through full scrutiny in the House of Lords, its passage through the Commons is being severely truncated. It will receive a second reading before MPs on 6 April — the day on which the general election is expected to be announced — and it is unlikely to enter into committee stage before its brief third reading, just before parliament dissolves.

Labour MP Tom Watson has suggested that the third reading of the bill in the Commons could take as little as an hour or two. Committee stage usually takes dozens of hours, in which MPs closely scrutinise the wording of legislation.

At their recent party conference, the Liberal Democrats almost unanimously passed a motion on internet freedom, which is an issue closely associated with the bill due to its sections on penalising people for unlawfully file-sharing copyrighted material. These penalties could include temporary account disconnection, which campaigners say is unfair on those who share their connection with the suspected file-sharer.

Topic: Government UK

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • I'd be interested on other zdnet members' opinions on the Digital Economy Bill; I have decided to stand against Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, who is largely responsible for the bill.
    As a member of the Pirate Party UK, I am opposed to the Bill on the grounds that it compromises internet freedom.
    Whilst I am glad to see that the Lib Dems plan to take a stand against the 'wash-up' process, I can't help feeling that, once the Bill has been scrutinised properly, they might still allow large chunks of the Bill to pass. Maybe I'm wrong; I haven't scrutinised their opinion closely enough.
    Either way, I'd be interested in reading the opinions of zdnet readers, so that I have a better understanding of voters' concerns. :)
  • Well I've tried to follow various sections of this bill and have come to a disturbing realisation.

    I cannot find a single thing in it that is of benefit to ordinary people - you know, those that the government are supposed to represent.
  • Looks like the politicians have fallen for the copyright lobby, who let's remember have spent the best part of 100 years trying to kill any new technology until they can make money from it. When they sold sheet music, they tried to kill records. Remember "home taping is killing music"? where they also tried to kill the Philips casette by legal moves too, the same goes for downloads and yet statistics clearly show that those people who copy music are often the ones who also spend the most too. As for me, when at school a teacher taped me his Velvet Underground record and since then I have bought them all (sometimes more than once).

    See new clause 18 - take down service for web sites - "likely to be used in infringement of copyright or facilitate connections". Guilty until proved innocent? Would this include Google?
  • This story is developing rather quickly. Please see
    David Meyer
  • The Digital Economy Bill is unfair to people who use the same internet
    connection as someone that does file sharing. It is also unfair to
    people that do file sharing, because sharing is good! People must be
    free to noncommercially share exact copies of any published work.

    To attack sharing is to attack society. This bill attacks society
    to maintain the power on which certain profitable businesses rest,
    power that they should not have.

    for more explanation, including suggestions for new ways to support
    the arts that don't depend on forbidding sharing.