As the Conservatives look set to help Labour push the flawed Digital Economy Bill into law before the election, Mike Simpson, Lib Dem candidate for SW Surrey, questions his opponent in the election – the Conservative media spokesman.
Dear Mr Hunt
Digital Economy Bill: another Parliamentary scandal?
I am puzzled: why are you and the Conservatives working with the Government to get the Digital Economy Bill passed before the election?
It can’t be because consumers will have to pay an extra £300 million for internet security to avoid being disconnected or have their bandwidth throttled. Or because businesses could find their websites blocked through spurious copyright claims. Or because all of us will have to replace our analogue radios with digital radios by 2015. Or because the Bill will force universities, libraries, small businesses and others to shut down wifi hotspots. Or because photographers and other independent creators are up in arms as they could have their creative work stolen and published on the internet for commercial purposes.
Even if you don’t spend much time in SW Surrey, I hope you noticed that many complaints have been posted on your own blog, that there have been thousands of #debill tweets complaining about the Bill in the past month, that over 18,000 people have e-mailed MPs in the past 2 weeks, that hundreds of people have demonstrated outside Parliament and that technology companies are against the Bill, saying that it could disrupt the internet and warning that this type of legislation should not be passed in a rush.
Of course, there has been heavy lobbying by major media interests and unions, mainly based of an argument which cannot withstand any statistical or economic scrutiny. On one side the major record companies and the Labour candidate in SW Surrey are trying to take us back to the pre-internet era when they didn’t face so much competition. On another, major publishing interests are keen to make use of whatever material they can find on the Internet.
It seems to be Big Business vs consumers, artists and web-based small businesses. You may vaguely remember that there are a lot of the latter in SW Surrey, which is what has helped keep Farnham’s local shops open in spite of the current recession.
I think it is totally undemocratic to push this 24,000 word Bill through now, without the usual 80-90 hours of Parliamentary time it would normally deserve. I also think it is far more about protecting dinosaurs from consumers, artists and small businesses than about Freedom, creativity and the internet. If you and the Conservatives still insist on pushing this into law before the election, and if the people of SW Surrey elect me in your place, I will work to reverse it and to make sure that we have a Government which listens to the people, not corporate lobbying.