March 27, 2010 | Jim Killock

Lib Dems, Tories and Labour pledge to ram disconnection through

Yesterday, Don Foster for the Liberal Democrats let his party know his position on the Digital Economy Bill.

Essentially, the Lib Dems are currently:

  • Opposed to web blocking
  • Happy to pass the disconnection clauses 11-16, on the basis that the final disconnection plans would have to be approved after a short Parliamentary debate and whipped vote.

This is the position of the other parties too. Many back benchers seem to be confused, and seem to think unanimity is required for measures to be pushed through ‘wash up’ without debate, and that anything controversial won’t be passed.

But controversial doesn’t actually mean controversial to 17,000 letter writing members of the public, or among back bench MPs. The BIll is "uncontroversial" because the party front benches are agreed.

So there we have it. As it stands, no party intends to demand debate and scrutiny of these clauses, no party believes them sufficiently controversial, and no party is concerned about the intense corporate lobbying.

What do politicians think that tells us about democratic accountability, if parties think they can ask their back benchers to abandon their duty to scrutinize genuinely controversial legislation, weeks before they have to justify themselves to the electorate at the ballot box?

Despite this arrogance, the scale of public opposition has reached the attention of many good back bench MPs, who are writing to people like you to express their concern. That’s why we need to keep the letter writing up. 38 Degrees have another, new letter, highlighting the fact that we know this will arrive in wash up and proceed without debate.

Email your MP again

Get everyone who cares about democracy and our right to enjoy free speech, work and education without undue interference to do the same.

Comments (4)

  1. Alix:
    Mar 27, 2010 at 02:20 PM

    I'm starting to think it's you who's confused. For a start, unanimity is obviously not required for passing any legislation under any circumstances, and I seriously doubt that backbenchers are under this impression. However, it is the case that the more opposition a bill has, the more a government will have to shorten/correct/omit controversial provisions to get it passed in wash-up.

    "As it stands, no party intends to demand debate and scrutiny of these clauses,"

    This is quite simply untrue and you should correct it. The Lib Dems *did* demand a second reading, and secured it on 11 Mar - see my blog with comment from David Heath to this effect. This is what is going to happen on 6 April.

    Of the disconnection provisions, the Lib Dem statement says: "We also want to ensure that any measures will be subject to maximum scrutiny in parliament and that it will be possible to change them before a final decision is made."

    Immediately after the discussion of the disconnection provisions, this point is reiterated more generally: "the controversial parts of the Bill will need to be scrutinised and voted upon by the next parliament before they can be brought into law. Liberal Democrats MPs would not support these sections of the Bill without this process."

    To be quite honest, Jim, I'm starting to wonder how responsible or useful your reportage of this topic is. I'd be the first to critique the offering we've got from the Lib Dems - it doesn't go far enough, and some of the old canards re: disconnection are still there. But the operative word is "critique". You're the leader of a campaign, for god's sake, you're supposed to know that lobbying is about more than shouting incoherently and omitting facts you don't like.

  2. Alix:
    Mar 28, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Jim, this is what David Heath said:

    "Will the Leader of the House tell us when she expects to have the Second Reading of the Digital Economy Bill? That very controversial Bill was introduced into another place in November last year. It has had three months of detailed scrutiny and it completes its proceedings there next week. We must surely give that Bill at least a Second Reading here before dissolution. Will the right hon. and learned Lady tell us when?"

    That sounds remarkably like he called for more debate and scrutiny to me. And like it wasn't at all inevitable that there'd even be a second reading. If you think he's misrepresenting the truth on that, you'll have to take that up with him.

  3. Jim Killock:
    Mar 27, 2010 at 03:03 PM

    The second reading debate has to take place in order that 'wash up' can be used to pass the Bill. So we have always expected the government to have this.

    What will not take place is the detailed scrutiny, committee and report stages. These will be constrained to a 45 minute process in order that the legislation is passed before Parliament is dissolved.

    The quotes you report from the Lib Dem team refer to future scrutiny of statutory instruments introducing disconnection, delivered to Parliament, debated and passed on a vote. This is the position of all three parties, and represents a severe danger, as SIs are viewed as uncontroversial, get limited Parliamentary time, and will be subject to whipping.

    The reason both government and opposition have to agree to what gets passed in wash up is simply that the process has to be rammed through without opposition. This means any party can cause delays and derail parts or all of the process. The Lib Dems have some power here - as do back benchers if they kick up a fuss about the unconstitutionality of passing unready and controversial legislation in his manner.

    That's why the Lib Dem position is important - it helps rally opposition within other parties too, if Lib Dem opposition is present.

  4. Jim Killock:
    Mar 30, 2010 at 08:33 AM

    Hi Alix,

    I commented on this elsewhere. The second reading debate David called for opens the Bill to being passed through 'wash up', so without saying "we need full scrutiny in the Commons", David is inviting the government to complete the Bill in wash up. The fact David references the Lords debate as having "months of detailed scrutiny" suggests to me that the Lib Dems think the work is done. I'm sorry, but there it is. I'd really prefer not be saying this.