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Mr. Miller: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention and for the fact that he has taken such an interest in my Bill. I wrote to all hon. Members and told them that, if they wished, the Alliance against Counterfeiting and Piracy would provide them with information about what was happening in their constituency. Several colleagues have written to me asking for that information.
The Bill has three main aims: to increase penalties for the crime of copyright theft; to strengthen search warrant provisions; and to give greater powers to allow rights owners to obtain forfeiture of infringing material. It amends the criminal provisions in intellectual property law and, more specifically, copyright law. It deals with rights on performances, fraudulent reception of conditional access transmission by the use of unauthorised decoders, and trademarks.
In general, intellectual property law provides private rights that can be enforced by rights owners using civil remedies. In addition, it is a criminal offence to make for sale or hire, or deal with, illegal material. That material includes pirate copies, which are copies of material protected by copyright, such as music, films and computer software which have been made without authorisation; copies of performances which have been made without the permission of the performer holding the recording rights--known as bootleg copies; and unauthorised decoders that allow people access to transmission such as cable and satellite television.
Mr. Bercow: Inevitably, because this is the hon. Gentleman's Bill, he knows more about it than anyone else in the House. For my benefit, will he explain in a sentence or two how search warrant procedures would be strengthened? I accept that they would be, but I am not clear how the Bill makes them stronger, and how it differs from existing arrangements.
To finish my list of examples, illegal material includes counterfeit material, which comprises goods, packaging and labels bearing a trademark that has been applied without the consent of the trademark owner. Those criminal provisions are altered by the Bill.
Clause 1 increases the maximum penalty for conviction on indictment for offences relating to making for sale or hire, or dealing in, material infringing copyright, illicit recordings infringing performers' rights, and unauthorised decoders. The new maximum penalty is an unlimited fine, and may include up to 10 years in prison to reflect the seriousness of those crimes and bring penalties into line with those for similar trademark offences.
Clause 2 allows the police to obtain warrants for all the offences that I outlined. Those provisions are additional to any powers available to the police under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and should ensure that there
As I explained earlier, clause 6 introduces further warrant arrangements and seizure provisions relating to counterfeit goods and articles for making them. Clauses 3, 4 and 5 introduce measures to allow the forfeiture of goods infringing copyright and articles designed or adapted for making such copies.
In view of the time, and as I know that other hon. Members want to contribute to the debate, let me pose a question: is the Bill a panacea? No, it is not. It is a start. The subject is incredibly complicated. There are other issues to be addressed, such as electronic transmission. Those who are on the mailing list for Teleworker, as I am, will see an interesting article by David Flint about copyright problems in cyberspace. That is a massively complicated problem, far too big to deal with in a private Member's Bill, but I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House have indicated their desire to engage in the international discussions that may be necessary to develop law in that regard.
My Bill is a step in the right direction. By increasing penalties and improving definitions, I want the House to raise the profile of the crime and stamp out some of the activities that are going on. A partnership is needed between business and the consumer which, together with the courts, Customs and Excise and trading standards officers, can make a difference. Let us put aside party differences, and differences about private Members' Bills. Let us show the responsible side of Parliament, and demonstrate that the House is no friend to any criminal.
Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton): The Opposition do not oppose the Bill in principle. In a free society, the preservation and enforcement of property rights is vital to that freedom. It is the essence of the rule of law. The enforcement and protection of property is key to the success of a capitalist society.
Mr. Miller: That is what attracted me to use the opportunity of private Member's legislation to develop the Bill. One of the ways in which we can help Britain's innovators and inventors is by closing some of the great gaps that the hon. Gentleman highlights. The House needs to take a strong lead.
Mr. Gibb: The hon. Gentleman is right. It is encouraging that the Bill has come from his side of the House--the left in politics, broadly speaking. Traditionally, the left has had a less "pro" attitude than supporters of the free market towards property. It is encouraging that a Labour MP is promoting the Bill.
Mr. Bercow: I agree with my hon. Friend about the welcome genesis of the Bill. However, does he agree that the reason is simple? It is entirely proper that where there is a choice between support for property or acceptance of piracy, most people would support property.
Mr. Gibb: My hon. Friend is right. Property is crucial to the functioning of a free society and to the rule of law. If people's property rights--especially in intellectual property--are not protected, the incentive to create such intellectual property is diminished through its confiscation by others who thus diminish its rewards. That disincentive applies whether such confiscation is carried out by Governments or by criminal individuals. The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) is right in principle to introduce measures that help to protect those rights.
The Opposition have some concerns about the drafting of the Bill. It would be more appropriate to discuss some of its more detailed proposals in Committee, but they are of sufficient importance to air during Second Reading. I shall do so as briefly as possible.
The Opposition bow to no one in the Labour party when it comes to understanding the importance of property rights in securing a free and prosperous society. However, we take great pains to ensure that we do not undermine either those rights or others, such as the right to privacy and the free enjoyment of property unhindered by excessive intervention by the state. Those rights--those civil liberties--are the prime responsibility of Members of the House. I make no apology for saying that the Bill as currently drafted needs careful scrutiny to ensure that it does not unnecessarily or hastily extend the rights of the state to intervene in the activities and property of innocent individuals and legitimate businesses.
The explanatory notes were prepared by the Department of Trade and Industry, which also carried out the regulatory impact assessment. In view of the important powers given to the Government in the measure, it should have been introduced by them, so that Ministers were accountable for its drafting and its passage, and so that the Government could be held accountable by the public at an election, if the public felt that the Bill went too far--or, indeed, not far enough.
The Opposition share the concerns of the Bill's supporters about copyright protection and counterfeit goods, but we must be absolutely sure that existing legislation is inadequate. The explanatory notes summarise the Bill as follows:
The explanatory notes contain no discussion or elucidation of the way in which lack of rationalisation impedes the work of the authorities or the police. No careful analysis has been carried out of existing legal provisions and the way in which they hamper or hinder the police and the enforcement authorities.
There is no evidence of the courts handing out a series of two-year sentences in circumstances when higher sentences could be imposed if a 10-year maximum penalty existed. Earlier, I mentioned the case of the wishbone car suspension, which the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston gave as an example. I assumed that he was making the point that a two-year prison sentence had been imposed because of the inadequate state of the statute book. However, even in that case, no prison sentence was given.