Political

Digital Economy Bill debate: what’s set to happen tomorrow?

The story so far regarding the Liberal Democrats and the highly controversial Digital Economy Bill, which threatens all sorts of people, currently going through Parliament:

  • Emergency motion on the Digital Economy Bill submitted (see full text on Bridget Fox’s blog)
  • Federal Conference Committee (FCC) treat it fairly generously – as emergency motions do not normally get into the territory of drawing up significant new party policy (because, by their nature, the wording is only published at the last moment and so people have little time to debate over it, draw up alternatives etc.).
  • There are two emergency motions but only a slot to debate one of them – so conference voted this morning on which to debate tomorrow. Digital Economy Bill motion wins that vote over a motion on health.
  • Danny Alexander MP (Vice Chair, Federal Policy Committee) makes significant commitments, saying the party will try to further change the Digital Economy Bill in the Commons and to draw up new policies after the election.

So the one chapter in this story left to play out at the party’s spring conference is the debate tomorrow morning on the emergency motion.

There has been a sequence of MPs so far, some privately and some more publicly agreeing with the proposition, “We have to do more; the current proposals from Lib Dem peers on the Digital Economy Bill are not enough”. Several have expressed concern at the number of people who have contacted them on the issue already.

When in the past there have been motions which goes against the party line, the wishes of the leader or are claimed to have scope to embarrass the party various different pieces of machinery have been kicked into action in order to try to secure the ‘right’ outcome. On this issue, the machinery is overall notably inactive and, in particular, there are no strong moves to encourage MPs to turn up and oppose the motion.

All of which means we should have a good debate tomorrow on the merits of the issue itself and – if the motion is passed – not only address the short-term Digital Economy Bill but also start to address some of the wider issues about how the party makes policy in this area.

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