Another letter to Ben Wallace

With the spectre of the Digital Economy Bill looming large for everyone, and the BPI and others lobbying to have it passed without proper parliamentary scrutiny, I decided it was time to write, once again, to my MP, Ben Wallace.

Dear Mr Wallace,

I’m writing to you, once again, to express my deep reservations about the Digital Economy Bill and to ask you to do all that you can to ensure that the Government doesn’t rush the bill through parliament and in doing so deny us our democratic right to have the bill scrutinised and debated by our elected representatives.

This bill, as I’m sure you’re well aware by now, is nothing if not controversial. In its original form it was deeply flawed, and the amendment that the Liberal Democrat peers proposed which would allow for the blocking of whole websites that hosted “significant amounts” of infringing material was even more ill-considered – so much so that the Lib Dems themselves tabled a change to their own amendment.

However, the government has said that it will enact the changes itself during the wash-up process in the Commons in order to ensure that the bill continues its speedy passage through parliament.

As I understand it, this essentially means that the amendment may be passed without sufficient parliamentary scrutiny. What makes this particularly horrifying is that it has been shown that the text of the Lib Dems’ original amendment was almost word for word from a draft written by the BPI[1], hardly the most neutral of parties in the context of this bill.

Furthermore, a leaked memo from the BPI shows that they expect Parliament to pass these plans without debate[2]:

“[MPs] will have minimum input …¦ from this point on. …¦ John Whittingdate MP [DCMS committee] …¦ has said this week it [the Bill] could be lost if enough MPs protest at not having the opportunity to scrutinise it. Whist true in constitutional terms, the hard politics of the situation makes it seem unlikely …¦ Come the week of 29th March the main political focus is likely to be on the …¦ Budget”

I cannot urge you strongly enough to do your utmost to make sure that this bill is debated properly and thoroughly in the Commons. Whilst I’m aware, speaking as both an IT professional and a musician and digital artist, that our laws need to be changed to combat the spectre of copyright infringement by digital means, this is not something that should be done at the end of a Parliament, to be rushed through before an election.

You have previously demonstrated your commitment to openness with the voters who elected you by being one of the only MPs to make details of all their expenses available long before the expenses scandal reared its ugly head. I hope that you will do the same here, and ensure that the people that elected you have their voices heard in Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Binns

  1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/mar/11/digital-economy-bill-amendment-lobbyists
  2. http://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2010/label-bosses-warn-debate-could-cost-the-disconnection

You should write to your MP, too.