LABOUR was on track to squeeze its controversial Digital Economy Bill into law last night, but was forced to drop clauses on regional broadcasting and extending Ofcom’s powers.
Crucially, the Conservative opposition backed proposals to cut off the internet connections of people found illegally sharing files as the bill was rushed through a third reading in the end-of-parliament lawmaking process known as “wash up”.
In 11th hour horse-trading between the government, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, schools secretary Ed Balls saw compulsory sex education shorn from his Children, Schools and Families Bill. His Conservative counterpart Michael Gove claimed removing the year’s obligatory classes for every 15-year-old was a victory for parental freedom.
The Finance Bill, which usually passes into law uneventfully at the end of a parliament, was also a key battleground. It was bundled through last night without its centrepiece, the establishment of a financial stability committee comprised of members of the Bank of England, Financial Services Authority and the Treasury. Plans to levy a £6-a-year tax on fixed line phones to fund the rollout of super-fast broadband and to charge a 10 per cent “super tax” on cider were also ditched.
This week’s wash up has seen Labour forced to ditch a number of laws as it tries to get 10 bills onto the statute book by tonight. On Tuesday, the government dropped constitutional reforms including a plan to scrap hereditary peers in the Lords.