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6 Apr 2010 : Column 922

Mr. Timms: There will certainly need to be discussion with them, yes.

Unlawful file sharing using peer-to-peer networks is not the only form of online copyright infringement. It is the biggest today, but the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) made the point that perhaps a third of infringements are accounted for by other approaches. There will be new approaches in the future and legislation will be needed to address them.

I regret that an amendment in the other place supported by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats removed the flexibility to tackle new forms of copyright infringement in future and instead introduced clause 18, which, in its current form, is highly problematic in a number of ways. It is a major change and there has been absolutely no consultation about it so far, and it would be unenforceable given the requirements of the technical standards directive. We have therefore drawn up an amended version to address those problems. It is available on the Bill website, although not yet in the Vote Office, for reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) explained.

The amended clause will provide a power to make regulations and require that they be properly consulted on, and it will not fall foul of the technical standards directive. We can then consider further the case for such regulations, assess their benefits and consider the proportionality of suggested remedies to the problem. We can consider what the regulations need to do, when they are appropriate and what safeguards are needed. Regulations brought forward under the amended clause 18 will have to go through the super-affirmative procedure, allowing the maximum possible parliamentary scrutiny, including the ability for a Committee of either House to recommend changes to the terms of the regulations. I hope the House accepts that that will allow a high degree of parliamentary scrutiny beyond the agreement of the Bill, so that we can consider precisely how the amended clause 18 is to be given effect.

Mr. Redwood: Will the Minister explain what would happen if someone had paid for an article or some content from a paid-for site? What would they be allowed to do? Could they invite people in their home to read it for free online at their convenience? Could they print it out and circulate the print-out to friends or family, and could they make multiple copies? Is it just sending it around electronically that is illegal? I would be grateful to know what the crime is.

Mr. Timms: I think that the right hon. Gentleman is barking up the wrong tree. The owner of the copyright-the person who is responsible for the content, such as the right hon. Gentleman himself in the case of his blog, which he told us about-can do what he likes with that content. The amended clause 18, which is to provide a power to make regulations rather than change the law directly, will allow a copyright holder to apply for a court order to block access to a website.

Mr. Redwood: The Minister cannot say that I do not understand the matter. I am asking him how far someone could go in using something that they had paid for before falling foul of his proposal. It is a very reasonable question.

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Mr. Timms: But the author of the content will not fall foul of the proposal. I do not imagine that the right hon. Gentleman will apply for a court order to block access to a website that holds his content. A music maker such as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) might wish to do that, but the right hon. Gentleman clearly would not.

Mr. Redwood rose-

Mr. Timms: I need to make some progress.

Nothing illuminates the vacuity of the Conservative party's policy platform better than the vacuity of its policy on broadband. It is very depressing that the Conservatives have added to their yawning credibility deficit by supporting the end but refusing to support the means to roll out next- generation broadband in rural areas. They simply do not have a credible policy. For a long time they maintained that minor regulatory tweaks would be sufficient to unleash the scale of investment necessary. I am glad that they have now admitted that public funding will be needed for next-generation broadband in rural areas, as it most certainly will, but they have identified a funding source that will not be available for another three years. Taking their approach would be a disastrous betrayal of rural businesses, of young people and schools in rural areas, and of people living in rural areas who want to work from home. Virgin Media will offer 100 megabits per second services across its entire network serving urban areas by the end of this year. Why do the Conservatives think that rural areas should wait for another three years before they get any help?

Mr. Hunt: We do not, which is why we have said that we think that the digital switchover surplus should be used to help fund rural broadband.

Mr. Timms: That money will be available, on the hon. Gentleman's proposition, only in the new licence fee settlement for the BBC and so will become available for 2013. The money for the period between now and the end of the current licence fee period has already been spoken for.

The hon. Gentleman argued at the start of this debate that the market can ensure a diverse provision of regional independent news, but the truth is that despite the popularity of regional ITV news, it is under severe threat, as my hon. Friend the Member for Inverclyde (David Cairns) and others rightly pointed out. The Bill offers a multi-media model with potentially lower production and distribution costs which can meet audiences' needs. We propose to fund the pilots through a small element of the digital switchover underspend and then decide on longer-term funding later, in the light of the pilots.

Mr. Foster: The Minister knows that I entirely agree with him on that point, but the hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) warned us earlier to beware what Chief Whips say, and I am receiving messages that the Government Chief Whip has acknowledged that clause 29 will be dropped by the Government. Can the Minister confirm that that is categorically not the case and that they will press it as far as they can?

Mr. Timms: We certainly will press the clause as far as we can. We have heard the Conservatives describe their red lines and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, those on
6 Apr 2010 : Column 924
the Conservative Benches are in a stronger position at this stage in the process than would otherwise be the case.

Mr. Vaizey: How is the Minister proposing to use the digital switchover surplus for IFNCs, given that he has just said that it is not available until 2013?

Mr. Timms: The scale of funding that the Conservative party is talking about is certainly not available until the new licence fee round is agreed. Indeed, I would argue that if the Conservatives think that the BBC can be run for a lower price, they should reduce the licence fee, not use it to fund other things. It would be far better to have a transparent and clearly identified source of reliable funding, as we propose with the phone line levy.

The case for a new ability to license orphan works is a very strong one. Many films, for example, some in the BBC archive, cannot be seen at all today because nobody knows who owns the copyright. It would be a criminal offence to show those films and that problem needs to be fixed. In the past few weeks, we have heard a good deal about the worries of photographers that clause 43 would allow people to exploit their work by claiming it to be "orphan". I understand and sympathise with those concerns, and I agree that they need to be addressed, but clause 43 would allow us to do that. In the end, if photographers were not satisfied that we were able to produce orphan rights regulations that met their needs, we would not proceed with the regulations. I welcome the statement about clause 43 made last week by a number of photography organisations, including the Association of Photographers, the National Union of Journalists, the Royal Photographic Society and Getty Images, welcoming changes made to the Bill in the other place and looking forward to working with Government on the regulations to be made under clause 43.

Mr. Watson: I have great admiration for how my right hon. Friend is putting his case, but I still have grave reservations about clauses 11 to 18, and it is with the greatest regret that I say that, although it is clear that the three Front-Bench teams are determined to railroad this through on Second Reading, if the Government cannot move on those clauses tomorrow-we will have only an hour on Third Reading-I will not be able to support the measures at the crucial vote on Third Reading. I am sure that I speak for other colleagues.

Mr. Timms: My hon. Friend, in his thoughtful speech, made his position clear. I say to him that our choice is between acting and not acting on unlawful downloading. That is the choice that the House needs to make, and I think that there is broad agreement across the House on the need to act in the way the Bill sets out.

I shall comment on some of the others points made in the debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth asked me to confirm that the powers in respect of Nominet would be used only as a last resort, and I can indeed give him that assurance. The hon. Member for Bath, who has entertained the House with the Liberal Democrats' policy changes, suggested having a super-affirmative procedure for clause 11. Actually, that clause is drawn pretty tightly, and the power can be used only following an assessment by Ofcom. So although I think it is appropriate for clause 18, I do not think that such an additional safeguard is appropriate for clause 11.

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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt) for his contribution to this debate throughout his time in the House and for his contribution outside the House in creating the Oxford Internet Institute, for example. I wish him well for the future. The hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford was right to underline the huge damage being done by piracy, but as I said earlier I agree that legislation on its own is not the sole answer.

Mr. Whittingdale: There is concern among some who have looked at the Bill that clause 46 might have similar sweeping powers to the unlamented clause 17. Will the Minister confirm that that is not the case?

Mr. Timms: Yes, I can. Clause 46 gives powers only to make amendments consequential on other parts of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff)-I enjoyed his Committee's report on broadband, and I, too, would have liked the response to have been published by today-made important points in his report and speech about 2 megabits per second. I agree that about 10 per cent. of homes still cannot get a 2 megabit per second broadband service. We need to make sure that they all can. Broadband Delivery UK, which started work just a few weeks ago, will be working up that definition.

We have had a very good debate. The digital economy and our creative industries are a source of great strength for the UK and our economy. There are enormous opportunities ahead. The digital economy holds out vast opportunities for the UK. The Bill will enable us to realise those opportunities, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 63), That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.- (Mary Creagh.)

Question agreed to.

Committee tomorrow.

Digital Economy Bill [ Lords] (money)

Queen's r ecommendation signified.

6 Apr 2010 : Column 926

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52 (1)(a)),

Question agreed to.

Digital Economy Bill [ Lords] (ways and means)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52 (1)(a)),

Question agreed to.

equality Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

Question agreed to.

6 Apr 2010 : Column 927

Equality Bill

Consideration of Lords amendments

Clause 9


10 pm

The Solicitor-General (Vera Baird): I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 1.

Mr. Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments 2, 29, 34 to 38, 53, 63 and 82.

Lords amendment 84, and amendment (a) thereto.

Lords amendments 85, 90, 91, 93 to 95, 106, 108, 109, 111 and 112.

The Solicitor-General: The amendments in this first group all relate to the scope of the Bill and are either concessionary or clarificatory. They are fairly random in their subject matter, so I shall take them in numerical order.

Lords amendment 1 provides a power to add caste as a subset of race, which is covered by clause 9. The case for legislating against caste discrimination has been argued with passion during the Bill's passage by Members of this House and in the other place. We have seen a good deal of evidence that caste can affect how people in Britain are treated, but the evidence has largely been about discrimination in relation to personal or social situations-for instance, the choice of who a person should marry-that are well outside the scope of discrimination law.

The small amount of mainly anecdotal evidence of caste discrimination occurring in areas covered by the Bill-employment, education and the provision of services, for example-emerged late in the day, when the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance published a report last November. The Government acted on that report and asked the Equality and Human Rights Commission to undertake further in-depth research, but it did not wish to do so. We immediately commissioned the National Institute of Economic and Social Research to undertake further research into the nature and extent of the problem. That research is under way, and it involves talking to a wide range of community stakeholders and conducting detailed face-to-face interviews with about 35 people who claim to have experienced caste discrimination. The report from this in-depth study is due in August.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Will the Minister explain whether this provision is to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure? I am looking at clause 199, and I do not see that any requirement for such a provision-including a power to amend the Act-to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. It is bad enough to have a Henry VIII clause, let alone this.

The Solicitor-General: It is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure; I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that.

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