The Digital Economy Bill

So you have no doubt heard about the passing of the Digital Economy Bill by the House of Lords

What has surprised me is not the measures proposed by the Bill – although these are clearly of some concern – but the speed with which the Bill has been considered and passed by the House of Lords since its first reading on the 19th November last year. Can the full range of issues relating to this Bill have been considered in a fair and accurate manner within 4 months when the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day Bill has taken three months to get to only its second reading?

Now of course some would argue that the Digital Economy Bill has been considered much quicker than other Bills because its consequences are much further reaching (no offence intended to any Armenians that are reading). This is precisely the reason why this Bill cannot be rushed through the Parliamentary process.

So, like many others, I urge you to write to your MP expressing your concerns about this Bill and the momentum with which it is being drafted into Law.

You can write to your MP (if you know your postcode) using the write to them website. Remember that the Digital Economy Bill concerns UK Parliament so make sure that it is your MP that you write to and not your MSP (in Scotland), AM (in Wales), MLA (in Northern Ireland) or MEP.
A simple letter expressing your concern about the Bill has been made available on the 38 degrees website which will automagically contact your MP directly via email.

Echo your concerns on twitter and facebook. If you have a blog post about the Bill. Raise awareness of it and the genuine concerns that it highlights concerning the democratic process in Britain today.

The letter I have drafted is copied below. So what are you waiting for? If you care about the future of the Digital landscape in the UK then draft yours now

Dear Michael Connarty

I am writing to you regarding the Digital Economy Bill of which you are no doubt aware.

I am not writing to challenge the Bill or it’s measures (as I am not in possession of the full facts regarding them) but am concerned from what I have read at the speed with which this Bill has been moved through the House of Lords and now potentially also the House of Commons.

I am writing therefore to ask you three questions:

1) do you believe that the Digital Economy Bill has been drafted in a correct and neutral manner in light of the full facts available?
2) do you believe that the measures proposed by the Digital Economy Bill are clearly defined?
3) do you believe that the Digital Economy Bill is in the interest of justice and has been drafted in a transparent manner devoid of political or economic influence?

If you cannot answer yes to any of these three questions then I would urge you to support consideration of the Bill in a full, qualified and considered Parliamentary debate.

Kind regards,

Dr Cole Henley

If I hear back from Michael I’ll be sure to let you know


I sent a letter to my MP, Mohammad Sarwar, over three months ago and haven’t received a reply yet — not even a courtesy letter. Very disappointing. I hope you have more luck.

Actually received a short reply from MP this morning Matt.
Response as follows:

“Good questions Cole. I will use them to assess the Bill.
Thank you for writing. Michael Connarty MP
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange”

It’s good to see you received such a quick response, even if he didn’t have the time or inclination to answer you questions.

It may be worth following up to see how he feels about the lack of debate expected in the Commons, as he may not actually get a chance to assess the bill properly.

Dear Mr Osborne

Thank you very much for your e-mail on this very important issue.

I don’t believe it is the Government’s intention to “rush” the Bill through, but should there be a general election called in the next few weeks, Parliamentary time will be limited. The Government will then face a choice between abandoning its legislative programme, or curtailing the length of time that outstanding Bills are debated. This particular Bill has had extensive and detailed Parliamentary scrutiny in the House of Lords and I certainly hope that it will be debated in the Commons too.

I appreciate that there are measures in this Bill that have attracted a great deal of controversy, but I don’t think the provisions are quite as draconian as you have been led to believe. The Bill has a provision that in a few, extreme cases individuals who have repeatedly been warned about illegally downloading copyrighted material could have their internet connectivity reduced and, if they persist in what is after all an illegal activity, then their connection could be severed.

Everyone agrees on the need to protect our creative industries and find a solution that does not see hard-working musicians and film-makers have their property stolen. The debate is around how this should be done. You are right to say that the ISPs oppose any measure which puts the onus on them, but the Bill is strongly supported by musicians, writers and others in the creative industries. In the last few days there has been a compromise reached that will continue to assert the principle that illegally downloading copyrighted material is theft and should not be tolerated, but will not strangle the creative democracy that the internet has unleashed.

Once again thank you for your e-mail and I hope that this answers some of the concerns that you have.


If you weren’t able to tell from the letter, I live in a Labour stronghold.