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Lords let Digital Economy Bill head to MPs

While one controversial aspect of the bill has been slightly softened, some fear MPs will rush it into law without fixing the rest.

parliament

The House of Lords has signed off on the Digital Economy Bill, leaving it to the Commons to approve amendments including a one that would knock websites offline for hosting illegal content.

The bill introduced the prospect of cutting off the connections of illegal file sharers, as well as a 2Mbps broadband promise.

The Lords removed plans in Clause 17 that would have allowed changes to copyright law without going to parliament, but have in its place introduced an equally controversial amendment, which would allow the government to take sites entirely offline for hosting copyrighted materials.

The Liberal Democrats originally introduced the changes, which were found to be nearly entirely written by music industry group BPI. In the final reading of the bill, the Lib Dems slightly watered down the amendment, allowing for appeals.

That section, Clause 17, was set aside by the Lords to be introduced in the bill in the House of Commons, via a move called the "wash up" procedure, which has some campaigners arguing it's being slipped in after not being debated by the Lords.

The House of Lords also refused to include an amendment by Lord Erroll that looked to create a better way to deal with broadband complaints. It was dropped without any debate.

With an election looming, the Labour government is expected to try to get the bill passed quickly.

Open Rights Group's director Jim Killock said it's now too late to improve the bill, and the only option is to "get rid of it."

"The problem is that this could now go to the Commons, and because of the budget it could be pushed through to a second reading which will mean it gets debated for a total of an hour," he told the Guardian.

He added that it's "now too late to do anything about this bill except get rid of it. We are calling on people to complain vociferously about it because the disconnection policies in it are still flawed."

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