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Digital Economy Bill attracts 10,000 protest letters in three days

Ian Grant

More than 10,000 UK citizens have written to MPs in less than three days to demand a debate on the Digital Economy Bill, and more are expected to attend a protest meeting outside parliament on Wednesday.

The Open Rights Group (ORG) has teamed up with 38 Degrees, a website that collates responses to controversial issues, to run a letter writing campaign to change the bill.

ORG executive director Jim Killock said it was "outrageous" that corporate lobbyists, including the BPI, FAST and UK Music, were demanding that MPs "curtail democracy" and ram the bill through parliament without debate.

The bill, much debated in the House of Lords, was sent to the Commons on Wednesday and had its first reading on Thursday. A date for the second reading and subsequent debate must still be set.

The government is expected to limit debate and amendments to the bill in order to have it passed in the "wash up", before parliament rises for the election.

Lord Erroll said during the third reading in the Lords that he was uncomfortable with the process. He said the method by which the bill had come through was "a complete and absolute abuse of parliamentary process".

Erroll said, "I am not quite sure why we bother to sit and debate any laws at all if the front benches in another place [the Commons] can get together and put whatever they like into a bit of legislation I have always found the whole area of wash-up very troublesome When I see two front benches colluding, I usually think that we are in trouble."

Killock said if the bill as it stands became law, it would allow disconnection and site blocking of many innocent people and websites that may have inadvertently shared copyright material. It could also spell the death of open or community Wi-Fi connections, he said.

The ORG demo takes place on Wednesday 24 March at 17:30 at Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament, next to Westminster Abbey.


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