The digital economy bill is highly controversial (What’s left of Digital Britain, Media, 22 March). We believe that it threatens to severely infringe fundamental human rights, by allowing the disconnection of internet accounts for alleged copyright infringement, and also by new “website blocking” laws that could result in new ways to suppress free speech and legitimate activity. There are also dangers to business, through restrictions on provision on open wifi networks, that could damage our economy.
But our worry today is that none of this will be properly debated by parliament. Last week, Harriet Harman MP failed to give the Commons any reassurances that this bill would be properly scrutinised by our elected MPs. Democracy and accountability will be sidestepped if this bill is rushed through and amended without debate.
For these reasons we are writing to ask that those most controversial parts of the bill – covering “technical measures” and court orders for website blocking – either be properly debated, or be taken out of the bill and subjected to genuine democratic scrutiny in a new parliament.
Anthony Barnett openDemocracy, Billy Bragg, Lord Errol, Bridget Fox Liberal Democrat PPC, Islington South & Finsbury, Jo Glanville Editor, Index on Censorship, John Grogan MP, Andrew Heaney Director of regulation, TalkTalk, Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat PPC, Cambridge, Julia and Simon Indelicate The Indelicates, Jim Killock Executive director, Open Rights Group, Nicholas Lansman Secretary general, ISPA, Graham Linehan screenwriter Caroline Lucas Leader, Green party, Baroness Miller, Simon Milner Director of industrial policy, BT, Peter Tatchell, Tom Watson MP, Lord Whitty Chair, Consumer Focus
(Source: The Guardian)
Contact Harriet Harman and tell her how fundamentally important debating the Bill is for our democracy itself. If you value free speech and the rule of law take two minutes right now.
The closer we get to the general election, the further the government is buying its head in the sand. After paying lip service to electoral reform, following the expenses scandal, with vague promises of a referendum on AV+ after the election, they seem to think the public has their eye off the ball on the other, equally vital changes needed:
Proposals for reform were drawn up by a cross-party committee set up on the instruction of Gordon Brown at the height of the expenses scandal, who said changes were needed to restore trust in politics.
The committee, chaired by the Labour MP Tony Wright, recommended electing select committee chairmen and members and a new committee to decide non-government business.Ms Harman has been lukewarm about the proposals since they were published last year, suggesting that they can only be implemented on the basis of “unanimity”. Now members of the committee have been told that the Government is preparing to allow a debate on February 23 and a vote on the proposals. The Government has decided to table an “unamendable order” — which will mean that an objection from a single MP will prevent any of the measures from being introduced. This is almost certain to happen since there is a hardcore minority against the proposals.
The Government denies blocking reform but Labour sources believe that Nick Brown, the Chief Whip, is leading the opposition to the plans and has persuaded Ms Harman to join him.
Now clearly suicidal, they’re chasing one another off the proverbial cliff. It’s worth remembering just how vital some of the rest of these reforms are – the Iraq War and other abuses under New Labour didn’t happen just because of the government’s wishes. The executive wasn’t constrained by the Commons – they’re all institutionally complicit in the war, extraordinary rendition, the Extradition Act, torture, you name it. To then walk away from genuine reform would be the biggest abuse of all.