The Digital Economy Bill has passed its second Commons reading, leaving it with a short committee stage and third reading on Wednesday, before it is passed into law.
In a debate lasting from 4.30pm to 10pm, Labour and Conservative MPs argued over the general principles of the bill. The Liberal Democrats were represented only by their culture spokesman, Don Foster. All in all, only five percent of MPs showed up for the debate, which took place hours after the announcement of the general election in a month's time.
The Conservatives repeatedly talked the bill down, with Adam Afriyie referring to it as "botched legislation". That did not, however, stop them from backing the bill, with the exception of clauses 1 (General duties of Ofcom), 29 (Regional and local news) and 43 (Orphan works).
Clauses 10-18 — the copyright crackdown and website-blocking clauses, referred to by Tory John Redwood as a "blank cheque" — all seem set to survive intact. The bill is being fast-tracked into law in a procedure, known as the wash-up, which is normally reserved for uncontentious legislation. The bill is also the first of its complexity and controversy to receive its second reading after an election was called.