Following advice from Glyn Wintle, who pointed out that MPs can take no response as meaning satisfaction, I have written again to my MP Charles Clarke regarding the Digital Economy Bill. You can read my original letter here, and read Mr Clarke’s original reply here.
Here is my new response:
Dear Mr Clarke,
Thank you again for responding to my email last week. I was pleased to receive such a fast response.
Having considered your reply, however, I’m sorry to say that it does not deal satisfactorily with my main concerns.
In your reply you wrote:
“I have taken up the points you have raised with the Government, and have attached the response I received from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.”
However, the attached letter from that Department explicitly states that it is a response to a letter you wrote on 23 February, long before I contacted you with my own concerns.
This is of particular importance because the LibDem amendment to the Bill that affects ‘digital lockers’ was only introduced on 3 March. Your initial contact with Stephen Timms regarding the Bill on 23 February and the issues raised by your constituents at the time could not have addressed this censorship amendment, which has the power to undermine the foundations of UK Internet access.
Although the situation has changed again since then, with the LibDems backtracking, I am still very concerned that the Bill is not receiving the due attention and care that it demands. There is talk that the final wording of many of the controversial clauses will be decided during the ‘wash-up’ stage on the last day of parliament, which is hardly the time to introduce major changes to copyright law and due process – even if I agreed with the Digital Economy Bill, I would still want it debated sensibly and carefully, so that it was enforceable when needed and precise enough to prevent abuse or misinterpretation in the future.
The situation regarding Labour’s involvement became yet more confusing and contradictory today, with Gordon Brown’s speech focusing on the need for ‘superfast’ broadband and his determination to ensure that everybody benefits from the technology, even specifically saying that he wanted to side-step a situation which would “create two nations: one digitally privileged, one digitally deprived”.
There were two other key parts to Mr Brown’s speech, which I quote below:
“We say that Britain’s digital future must be a future for all, not just for some.”
“Superfast broadband is the electricity of the digital age. And I believe it must be for all – not just for some,”
These statements seem entirely at odds with the controversial parts of the Digital Economy Bill, which aim to restrict Internet access on both an individual and a global scale. The Bill would serve to create the ‘two nations’ concept Mr Brown wants to avoid, with big media companies sitting happily on the dividing line.
How can Mr Brown make these claims when he is rushing a Bill through that gives powers to disconnect Internet users? The Bill would serve to create a nation of the ‘digitally deprived’ far more effectively than the market forces Mr Brown was referencing.
The electricity comparison is also interesting: if somebody uses electricity in their house to power something that is illegal, they do not have their electricity cut off, let alone without proper trial by jury.
I understand that you “broadly support the Government’s position”, which clearly I do not. However, regardless of our personal opinions of the Bill, surely we would both like to see it debated properly, over time, in the manner expected of British government? I’m certain that a properly debated Bill could then satisfy all parties and have everybody’s confidence.
I hope that you will raise my concerns again with those responsible. Myself and many like me (10,000 people wrote letters to their MPs on these issues in a single day last week) feel strongly about this matter and we will not rest until we see a Bill worthy of this country’s economy, society and creativity.