On The Death Of Digital Democracy

Write to your MP. Do it now.

What about? Well, you may have heard me and others carping on about the Digital Economy Bill. I’m going to set aside how I feel about it (although I’ll come back to that another time) for a moment, and just accept that some sort of Bill with that name has some kind of useful purpose. OK. It’s going to happen. Except with a Bill this important (the bill is after all, setting the basis for a large chunk of how our economy will work over the coming decades) it has to be done correctly, and democratically. There has to be debate, and out elected representatives should have time to consider it.

They’re not going to get that.

The Bill is going to be dealt with in the wash-up. (The wash-up being that period prior to a general election where bills and amendments are rushed through the houses expressly without proper oversight and debate – in theory to allow the business of the old parliament to be concluded.) The link above mentions that what she’s talking about is based on hearsay, and is not to be taken as 100% correct until Hansard is published. So allow me to quote Hansard.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I answered that. However, the noble Earl is clearly as unfamiliar with the procedure as, I confess, I am. Nevertheless, I am reliably informed that the usual channels will see the proposed new clause and that an amended clause will then be dealt with in the wash-up. I cannot give any more details. My noble friend the Deputy Chief Whip is nodding in the affirmative. I rest on the assurance that we intend to do this. It is a viable way forward.

They’re going to continue to amend and push through a massively contentious bill, during the wash-up. So I think I will continue to quote Hansard.

The Earl of Erroll: I am in a difficult position. I am delighted that the Minister realises the shortcomings of this clause; that it has replaced the previous Clause 17, which I did not like either; and that, therefore, something better will appear. On the other hand, the method by which it is appearing is by a complete and absolute abuse of parliamentary process. I am not quite sure why we bother to sit and debate any laws at all if the Front Benches in another place can get together and put whatever they like into a bit of legislation. That is for another time and another place. I have always found the whole area of wash-up very troublesome, particularly as a Cross-Bencher who does not get a look-in at all. I have seen some very funny things going through. When I see two Front Benches colluding, I usually think that we are in trouble.

This is troubling enough, except that the other day, a BPI strategy memo was leaked. I’m going to quote from it, too.

John Whittingdale – an inveterate “timing sceptic” (ie. he’s for the bill but doesn’t think it will get through in time) has said this week that he thinks that it could still be lost if enough MPs protest at not having the opportunity to scrutinise it.

Even the proponents of this Bill do not think it will pass if MPs actually have time to look at it. They are basing their strategy on being able to ram this bill through in a thoroughly undemocratic manner. And they are going to succeed, unless you write to your MP, and demand that they demand the time to fulfill their democratic obligations.