The ‘Digital Economy Bill Saints’: the MPs who voted against Labour’s internet freedom clampdown #DEbill

The House of Commons voted last night to push through Labour’s latest bit of legislative authoritarianism, the Digital Economy Bill. The Lib Dems were united in opposing it, but Labour brooked no opposition, while the Tories supported it with vague words of change, later, maybe. The Bill was passed by 189 votes to 47.

Alix Mortimer has tallied the scores of how the parties voted:

Of the 189 Aye votes, I make it 185 Labour and 4 Conservatives. Plus the two tellers were Labour.

Of the 47 Noe votes, I make it 23 Labour rebels, 16 Lib Dems, 5 Conservatives and 3 others (DUP, PC, Ind). Plus the two tellers were Lib Dem.

In total 240 MPs took part in the vote: 98% of MPs who voted for the Digital Economy Bill were Labour MPs.

The opposition to the Bill comprised 49 MPs (including the two tellers). As a percentage of the major parties’ representation in the House of Commons that means:

  • 29% of all Lib Dem MPs voted against the Bill (100% of those present);
  • 6% of all Labour MPs voted against the Bill (11% of those present); and
  • 3% of all Tory MPs voted against the Bill (56% of those present).

Here is the roll-call of honour – the Digital Economy Bill ‘saints’ – who stuck up for internet freedom in the Commons last night:

    Abbott, Ms Diane (Lab)
    Amess, Mr. David (Con)
    Barrett, John (Lib Dem)
    Beith, rh Sir Alan (Lib Dem)
    Breed, Mr. Colin (Lib Dem)
    Burgon, Colin (Lab)
    Burstow, Mr. Paul (Lib Dem)
    Carmichael, Mr. Alistair (Lib Dem)
    Cash, Mr. William (Con)
    Challen, Colin (Lab)
    Chope, Mr. Christopher (Con)
    Corbyn, Jeremy (Lab)
    Davey, Mr. Edward (Lib Dem)
    Davies, Mr. Dai (Ind)
    Davis, rh Mr. David (Con)
    Dismore, Mr. Andrew (Lab)
    Drew, Mr. David (Lab)
    Fallon, Mr. Michael (Con)
    Featherstone, Lynne (Lib Dem)
    Foster, Mr. Don (Lib Dem)
    Gerrard, Mr. Neil (Lab)
    Grogan, Mr. John (Lab)
    Hancock, Mr. Mike (Lib Dem)
    Harris, Dr. Evan (Lib Dem)
    Hoey, Kate (Lab)
    Howarth, David (Lib Dem)
    Howarth, rh Mr. George
    Hughes, Simon (Lib Dem)
    Jones, Lynne (Lab)
    Joyce, Eric (Lab)
    Keetch, Mr. Paul (Lib Dem)
    Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter (Lab)
    Lazarowicz, Mark (Lab)
    Love, Mr. Andrew (Lab)
    Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert (Lab)
    Mitchell, Mr. Austin (Lab)
    Öpik, Lembit (Lib Dem)
    Paisley, rh Rev. Ian (DUP)
    Palmer, Dr. Nick (Lab)
    Price, Adam (Plaid)
    Reed, Mr. Andy (Lab)
    Russell, Bob (Lib Dem)
    Simpson, Alan (Lab)
    Thurso, John (Lib Dem)
    Todd, Mr. Mark (Lab)
    Truswell, Mr. Paul (Lab)
    Watson, Mr. Tom (Lab)
    Tellers for the Noes:
    John Hemming (Lib Dem) and
    Mr. John Leech (Lib Dem)

Well done, all of you.

* You can read the Diary of the Very Fluffy Millennium Dome, Elephant here, which Richard occasionally assists Millennium in writing.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Andrew Suffield 8th Apr '10 - 12:00pm

    Just wish the other 70% of Lib Dems had shown up.

    Did anybody else notice that this bill passed with less than half the MPs even present?

  • Standard turnout, especially in the middle of an election campaign.

    Well done Ian Paisley

  • There are 63 Lib Dem MPs, and 16 felt it worth their time to show up and vote against.

    That’s 25% rather than the 29% you stated. It’s also pitiful – labour rebels were doing more to oppose this bill than the party I and many others were looking to to lead the debate against.

  • Phil J – to be fair you have to include the tellers as well. Which makes 18 and is 29%.

  • Chris – my mistake, cheers.

    Dave – not doing their job this time around isn’t a very strong argument in favour of voting for them again. In the past I’ve voted Lib Dem, but their halfhearted (quarterhearted, even) opposition this time around has persuaded me not to do so this time.

  • Mark: Can you honestly say you feel the Lib Dems opposition to this bill was adequate?

    Do you feel the single LD MP present for the second reading was enough to represent our views?

    Do you think the 16 votes in opposition the Lib Dems managed was anywhere close to the best they could do? Listening to the debate, did you feel it was the Liberals making the best points in opposition? Do you think the Lib Dems did all they could do these past couple of days?

    I don’t mind them losing, I’m very angry that they didn’t try, and my disappointment is such that I’ll vote for someone else this time around.

  • I’m not sure you’ll find that Don Foster considers disconnection is at all controversial: he indicated in both the 2nd and 3rd reading that he’s in favour of it, albeit with a longer process than the DE Bill proposed.

    And didn’t he suggest that only photos taken within the last 50 years (as if they’ve all got the date stamped on the back) should be protected against orphan theft?

    But what really gets my goat is his repeated spouting of bogus filesharing “cost” statistics pushed by the BPI and friends when they’ve been comprehensively debunked many times. As if Lord Tim’s financial connections weren’t bad enough…

    What a missed opportunity for the LibDems to engage with the youthful and relatively non-committed internet-friendly community.

  • Fraser Green 8th Apr '10 - 8:51pm

    The fact that only 16 LibDem MPs even bothered to turn up on such a controversial bill shows how much contempt our ‘elected’ officials, LibDem in particular, hold the public. Democracy fail indeed. I was going to vote LibDem in the General Election, but the pathetic turn out means I won’t be voting at all. We live in occupied Britian, bought and owned by major corporations, and if the LD arn’t going to be part of the solution, they are part of the problem. None of our political “representatives” even bother to show up to vote on anything. It’s disgusting.

  • The liberal democrats need to realise what a massive opportunity they have here, as the only major party promising to repeal the act they have the potential to reach a massive base of voters who havn’t or have rarely voted.

    ‘vote lib dem or lose facebook and youtube’

    ‘vote lib dem or lose your access to the internet’

    push the statistics on the false accusations of piracy on people due to the massive difficulty in determining who is actually pirating and that people could get their internet cut off because someone else used it, or because of error.

    As a 21 year old in college who hasn’t yet voted, I actually now have a reason to and will be voting lib dem.

    They actually have an opportunity to get in, if they get off their asses and make a move.

  • Can’t fault Harley’s position.
    A good way to demonstrate that LibDems ‘get it’ would be to acknowledge that non-commercial file-sharing costs the creative industries virtually nothing.

  • Fraser Green 8th Apr '10 - 10:58pm

    ” Is repealing this POS a pledge they’ve made? Yes.

    My local candidate is completely on board on this issue; I’ve made sure of that. Many many Lib Dems, especially candidates, are furious about the whole thing.”

    Talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words, or in this case, inaction. LibDems can ‘promise’ and ‘pledge’ until they are blue in the face but by doing nothing here they have shown they are no better than the Conservatives and Labour.

    Basically my point is this: The Liberal Democrats party lied to and betrayed the nation by idly standing by and doing nothing while the corporations and facists decided to put the internet genie back in the bottle because it was a threat to their corporatocracy. Who would I vote FOR? There are no political parties in the UK that represent the wishes of the people, unless by people you mean Hollywood, military industrial complex or whackjobs like the BNP. There will never be “proper consultation” as long as big business runs the country and the entire democratic process is a sham.

  • Me and a friend have started up a facebook page to support the lib dems and get the word out, help get the word out and support it/link it around.!/pages/Vote-Lib-Dem-or-Lose-Your-Internet/109798435718283?v=wall

  • @Alix – For most of the 2nd reading, Don was on his own.
    During last night’s performance, I don’t think he was ever the only LibDem but others came and went. I’d say most of the time there were 3 or more.
    But by then it was academic: ask more questions and reduce the number of clauses examined or add another vote that they knew they were going to lose without Labour or Tory support.

  • Bleeding Heart 9th Apr '10 - 5:36pm

    This is bill is typical of MP’s who think they represent their voters and they clearly haven’t a clue about how the internet works. One virus and everyone in the world (bar a few exceptions) will have no internet. Plus why do you need fast broadband if you can’t download. Tell me how you prove it legal. I law or at least until this bill you have a right to trial but not now it seems.

    People will have their say I suggest the Labour party and those Conservatives who voted start to wake up the expenses scandal will seem like a walk in the park after the internet get hold of this piece of unworkable junk (few lawyers are going to get very rich).

    It would be interesting to note how many of the MP’s who voted are now not encumbent and standing down Lib Dems you may have gained a few million extra votes!

  • Christine Headley 9th Apr '10 - 10:39pm

    I don’t know about many of the parliamentary majorities of the MPs listed who are standing again in May, or how far most of them were from their constituencies. But David Drew, majority 350, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, voted against the bill.

    Not that I’ll be voting for him – a colleague LibDem councillor is also standing – but I’m impressed.

  • My Labour candidate (Kate Hoey) voted against this bill. My Lib Dem candidate (Caroline Pidgeon) didn’t even turn up, despite my emails to both.

    I was voting Lib Dem. Now I’m not sure what to do.

  • Well, in Caroline Pidgeon’s defence she’s not an MP, so couldn’t vote! Who you vote for’s your call – I quite like Kate Hoey, who’s voted against her party on many of the dumb things they’ve pushed through, but then Caroline seems a decent candidate too.

  • Liberal Democrat opposition to this bill would be more impressive if it was not for the disgraceful record of your peer Lord Clement-Jones who introduced profoundly illiberal and anti-democratic amendments which actually made the bill more draconian even than the Government had intended. His questionable relationships with Big Media organisations make this even worse.

    And it is also unimpressive that so few LD MPs could be bothered to turn up to vote let alone participate in the vote.

  • Harley, as I suggested in my original post, it makes it worse that he was “only serving his own interests”. Do the Liberal Democrats appoint peers to “serve their own interests”?

    But congratulations to the LD grass roots on getting their MPs turned round the right way on this issue. Maybe though the next time you do this the conference motion could mandate them to actually bother to turn up for the critical vote if not for the whole debate! The astonishing ignorance and irrationality on display in this debate was quite mind-blowing.

    Granted you could not have made a difference due to the rank hypocrisy of the Tories, but a determined and committed show of force might have earned you a few extra votes come the election.

  • The Peers thing was John, not me, but while I’m here:

    I don’t think it’s an overreaction to not vote Lib Dem over this, it’s the only thing I can do to balance out the arithmetic that says Jo Swinson should go campaigning instead of voting on an important bill. The only defence I have against my vote being taken for granted is to make it so that you can’t take my vote for granted.

    I wanted sixty Tom Watsons. I wanted Lib Dem MPs leading the debate on what was wrong with this bill, I wanted the largest ever internet audience for a commons debate to see the party that I voted for standing up for them. I wanted a vote on the second reading both to show the government they were serious and to show us who was going to vote for the bill in advance of the third reading (I know there was no vote expected. Heaven forbid the Lib Dems do something unexpected). I wanted the LD MPs to be articulate and speak intelligently on the issue. I wanted to be proud.

    I got a party which was, on average, absent.

    So I’m voting on performance on a single issue. That’s all I can do to try and make that issue matter a bit more next time around. And in the meantime, the Greens are very close to getting their deposit back so I’ll try and help them out. They may be a bit nutty, but they really do try.

  • Thanks MattGB for that detailed explanation which helps me understand a little. However I think the real difference the LibDems could have made is to have a few people who really understood the issues present through the debate. There is some chance they could have shamed the Tories into simply voting this down. It is ironic that the biggest block of votes against was actually from Labour rebels!

    The real villains here are the Conservatives who spoke against the bill, called it outrageous that it was being rushed through at the last minute and them promptly voted for it. There is absolutely no justification I can see for the rush and no reason this could not have waited for proper process in the new parliament. I think the Tories have given the nod and the wink to their friends and sponsors in Big Media – “don’t worry boys if we say some nasty things about the bill, we’ll vote it through in the end”. I predict there will not be any further opposition to the bill after the election when they can safely forget the people for another four years and concentrate on pleasing their paymasters. Note that the only part of the bill they voted down was the one bit that might (arguably) have benefited ordinary people – the broadband subsidy from a levy on fixed lines.

    It was this:

    that really got me fired up on this issue. If our parliamentarians really cannot see that “substantial amount” does not mean the same thing as “substantial proportion” they certainly cannot be trusted to make laws! A billion pounds is a “substantial amount” of money, but it is not a “substantial proportion” of the national debt!

  • Paul Harris 25th Apr '10 - 3:49pm

    hi – I’ve never visited this site before but the bent of the author on this issue is fairly obvious from the title of the article. I’d like to ask – what would your alternative to the DEB be? I’m assuming as intelligent adults that you are not all hiding behind the unfounded fantasies used by the majority of copyright infringers on the internet and understand that all industries are part of an economic system that, when attacked, needs to defend itself.

    The fact is, it would be wonderful to believe that the internet was still in the same idealogical place as it was when it was conceived: a free flowing exchange of ideas for the enrichment of the common good. But that was when it was mainly a tool of academia and, well, things have changed. And not even on the behest of the industries that this bill is now trying to protect.

    Piracy has now spiraled into such a common place phenomena that a kind of ‘backwards’ justification has evolved around it. The idea of ‘freedom of information’ has been hijacked to justify the wholesale distribution of a product against the (majority) of the creative industries wishes. As technology has evolved, so to has the justification of piracy – and it’s just plain wrong. It’s irrelevant whether the industries in question are loosing money or not, really. It’s not even the point. People argue that discouraging ‘sharing’ (even hijacking what is a wonderful human act to better frame their activities) is against human nature, whilst completely ignoring the concept of exchange. The latter is as important a human trait as the former (even if the former were accurately used to define as piracy, which I do not believe it is) and the simple truth is, that aside from all the spurious justifications of piracy, the creators of works that can now be distributed digitally, receive no remuneration from the enjoyment of their works from those who enjoy them in this way. And yes, the creators of those works also include those who invest their time, money and livelihoods into these processes. And please don’t wheel out the old objection that these people aren’t stealing a physical product so they are not actually stealing anything – it displays a lack of understanding of the nature of intellectual property and the way the creative industries work. The raw materials have never been a significant proportion of the value of the product, and to argue in this way is naive.

    For the first time, the mode of distribution has become seemingly more important in some people’s minds than the mode of creation, and that, surely, is wrong.

    The fact is, that no one wanted this Bill, but unfortunately, due to the actions of a few selfish people, this Act has become a necessity.

    So – if anyone has any better ideas I’m sure that they would be enthusiastically received, but I fear that once again the opposition to this Act is really just a self-justification to carry on getting what you want for nothing.

  • Paul Harris 25th Apr '10 - 6:20pm

    Hey Harley – your response here is pretty typical of objections I’ve heard before, so I’ll take it point by point.

    ‘out of date economic system’ – the mode of distribution of music is not terribly out of date. One can hear music, for example, from a range of legal sources, make a decision on whether the music is to one’s tastes, and then go and buy the music. What the music industry, in this example, is against is the wholesale distribution of the products they have invested in (not just money, but time as well) illegally. And dress it up how you like, but this bill is about tackling the illegal distribution of music. Some argue that the current pricing models and systems of distribution are not attractive enough, despite the introduction of Mflow, Spotify, Pandora, etc. But the fact is, that no legal system of distribution can compete with putting ‘(act name) mediafire’ in to google and getting that product for nothing. That is what needs to be addressed, before more legal alternatives can be explored. We need to clear the ground of the illegal services to set the ground for legal ones. Some extremists argue that ‘all music/film/TV should be free’. This is just a nonsense created by the ability to get it free illegally – why should it be?

    ‘rushing the bill through’ – it’s not ideal, but that’s our political system for you. I think this bill should have had more scrutiny, and a chance to educate the public in why it is so necessary. I’m not sure that parliment would agree with that it is ‘not democratic’, though. Whether it’s immoral or not is a subjective matter. But I agree with you that it should have taken more time.

    on whether those who fileshare buy more music – an irrelevant, illogical argument. Just because I steal one thing does not mean I can steal something else. It’s an argument that is constantly used, but in any other area of commerce would be dismissed. Again, try music out using one of the myriad of legal options, then make your decision. If you like something, buy it and support those who made it. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that.

    On whom the bill will target – again, this is conjecture. There’s nothing to say this will be the case, and if you are not illegally downloading, you have nothing to worry about and you will not even feature in the process. If someone hijacks your connection and uses it to illegally download, you have plenty of time to say so. I should think these cases will be extremely rare.

    ‘not the actual people doing the creating’ who support this bill. Another groundless argument. Who exactly are you referring to? That chap from Radiohead who had the luxury of four years of record company support and marketing before selling millions of records? Whose band can command more money for one concert than many people will earn in twenty years of work? Who tested a ‘honesty box’ method of selling an album whilst charging £40 for a box set and releasing the album as well? By the way, I’m a fan of Radiohead’s music, but l think it’s a naive position. I work with writers, artists and record producers and not one think that wholesale online piracy is a good thing. Not one want to work and see nothing in return on the off chance that someone may come along to their show. What about their ‘rights’?

    And lastly, the more ‘underground’ it forces these people to go, the better. There will always be those who justify their acquiring product for free – but the less there are of them, the better. What is being aimed for, in my mind, is a situation where people find it easier to contribute to the creative industries by paying in some way for what they enjoy, rather than getting it illegally and for nothing – and that is something that will be easier to achieve when these illegal methods are controlled.

  • Hi Paul,

    Here’s what I want:

    Disconnection off the table – the internet has a hugely positive influence on employment, on education, on health, hell people with internet access are able to make better decisions when shopping. The internet’s a big deal, disconnection because someone infringed copyright on a couple of CDs is massively out of proportion, disconnection of a household because of the actions of one person living in that house is an injustice. What should the penalty be if not disconnection? Reasonable fines, and for anyone doing it commercially, prison.

    The burden of proof to be on the accuser, not the accused. “Innocent until proven guilty” – we sorted this in the eighteenth century, copyright infringement is wrong, but it’s not so wrong we need to reconsider the presumption of innocence.

    A revision of copyright to include some form of “fair use” – the Gene Hunt posters Labour and the Conservatives used shouldn’t be considered to infringe copyright. Nor should – for example – the downfall parody videos on youtube.

    The bill shouldn’t include provisions to allow the Business secretary to make up new penalties or enforcement systems. Amendments to the bill should go through parliament.

    Finally, I’d like for people who support the bill to stop dismissing everyone who opposes it as pirates. There’re serious problems with the bill, and as long as you continue to dismiss our concerns as those of people who just don’t want to pay for music those problems won’t get fixed.

    This bill isn’t going to stop filesharing in anything but the very short term, a similar bill was passed in Sweden, and the result was a fairly dramatic drop in filesharing for a few months, followed by a dramatic rise in encrypted filesharing so that now there’s more than there ever was.

    When we say this bill’s not going to do anything about serious copyright infringement it’s not idle speculation, the bill’s really not going to stop people who fileshare extensively. Who will it catch? Children, people who’re having their connection hijacked (and by the way, a talktalk survey in central london found 90% of connections to have no security or trivial security), people who’re falsely accused, and people who do very little filesharing.

    Oh, and Wikileaks. Wikileaks hosts almost nothing but material it doesn’t own the copyright to. Is it really appropriate that this bill allows the government to block access to it?

  • Crosbie – come on, if you’re going to lay in to the music industry get your facts straight. 1% royalty? Where did that come from? Your credibility is somewhat reduced if you pluck figures from the air for your own convenience. And belive it or not, no one is going to stop you singing your favourite songs to your neighbour and no one ever had that intention. I think you’ve missed the point here somewhat.

    Harley – most labels and music companies support Spotify and have licensed their music to it, so again maybe it would be a good idea to check your facts?

    Phil J – some good points well made. I like the ‘fair use’ comment especially.

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