It was an interesting debate to watch, with good contributions from many backbench MPs who had clearly been listening to all sides of the discussion.
However, no amendments were moved - that happens today. Due to the 'washup' procedures in Parliament the Conservative front bench has an effeitive clause by clause veto over this bill. As Jeremy Hunt described the bill as:
"a weak, dithering and incompetent attempt to breathe life into Britain's digital economy.[...]We have examined this Bill clause by clause, and we agree with the hon. Gentleman that it could have been massively improved had this House been able to give it proper scrutiny in Committee. The Government have had plenty of opportunities to allow such scrutiny, and it is a matter of huge regret that we have not been able to provide it.[...]I want to say plainly to the Government that, while we recognise that some parts of the Bill will have to be let through if we are to avoid serious damage to the economy, other parts of it are totally unacceptable, and we will use every parliamentary means at our disposal to remove them.
Peter Luff put it more strongly:
Nevertheless, this is the most profoundly unsatisfactory constitutional process I have engaged with in my 18 years in the House. In his opening remarks the Secretary of State promised my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) that he would write up a list of precedents, but I do not believe-I could be proved wrong-that there is a single precedent for giving a major and controversial Bill a Second Reading once a general election has been announced. It is a scandal that the House is being asked to agree that tonight.
I have given the matter careful consideration and I make this commitment: if there is a Division, I will support the Bill because, under a true constitutional process, it deserves a Second Reading; it does not, though, deserve what will happen to it thereafter. However, I broadly support the aims and objectives of the Bill and will vote for its Second Reading should there be a Division-but I shall do so under duress and protest, because I hate and loathe the process in which I am forced to participate.
Adam Afriyie summed up:
It has been a very interesting debate, with a single theme unifying the contributions from Back and Front Benches across the House-that the Government appear to be rushing through an important piece of legislation without due scrutiny in the House of Commons. After 13 years of digital dithering, this Bill is all they have to show on the digital front. It is a missed opportunity of massive proportions. Not only is it discourteous to rush such a significant measure through Parliament in the dying days of a failed Government, but it is also incompetent.
Now given these opinions, they should use their veto wisely to get rid of the muddled clauses.
The new clause 18 is most egregious and is simplest to remove - all it does is handwave about how the Secretary of State can make some rules that then have to go before Parliament anyway. It's making up a new process that is almost as complex as passing a bill properly, but with upfront constraints.
Dump it, promise a copyright reform Bill.
The existing clause 18 is clearly bonkers, as it doesn't define 'internet location' or any of its terms, and surely violates the 'mere conduit' principle.
Clauses 10-17 have mushroomed into a complex parallel court system, with a presumption of guilt, not innocence, and an appeals model. They now have (thankfully) added the need to pass a resolution through both houses for all regulations.
Jeremy Hunt, cut the Gordian (Gordonian?) knot. Drop these rococo clauses and propose a sensible copyright reform bill for the next Parliament that reforms copyright and the net sensibly.