Digital Economy Bill rushed into law

The UK Government pushed through the controversial Digital Economy Bill last night, in a two-hour debate that exposed as many holes in MPs' knowledge and the legislative process as it did in the Bill itself.

The final vote was 189 to 47 in favour of passing the law more or less intact. Despite opposition from the Liberal Democrats and some Labour backbenchers, Labour and Conservative whips rounded up enough MPs to give the Government a definitive majority.

While the Bill covers a broad range of issues, it has been criticised primarily for its anti-piracy provisions, which force ISPs to issue warnings and then throttle the connections of people that copyright holders believe have been pirating material.

There have been concerns that people could be falsely accused, that open wi-fi networks will be killed off, and that too much power is given over to the content industries.

While a whole raft of amendments were quickly debated and dropped for lack of time, the key opposition, at least from the Lib Dems, was to a provision creating ministerial powers to allow web site blocking where copyright infringement is taking place. It passed anyway.

Thousands of Twitter users, following the debate live on BBC Parliament late into the night, found themselves perplexed at the lack of granular knowledge displayed by MPs debating complicated technical measures while up against an arbitrary clock.

It was clear that some MPs were not sure what they were debating. Labour MP Derek Wyatt, for example, did not seem to understand the difference between an ISP and a webmail provider. Others clearly did not understand how peer-to-peer networks work, and voted for the Bill anyway.

The Bill was created at the request of the music and movie industries by business secretary Lord Mandelson, and debated at length in the unelected House of Lords.

Elected MPs yesterday had less than two hours to attempt to amend the stupid out of the text, due to the “wash-up” process that fast-tracks legislation before Parliament is dissolved ahead of a general election, but in the end the Government pretty much got what it wanted.