Brits: ask your MP to demand a debate on new copyright law before voting!

Last week's extraordinary leaked UK record industry memo on the Digital Economy Bill candidly asserted that the only reason Britain's retrograde, extremist new copyright law would pass Parliament is because MPs were "resigned" that they wouldn't have a chance to debate it properly.

For context: Labour cancelled its anti-fox-hunt legislation because there wasn't time for proper debate, but they're ramming through this copyright bill even though it's far more important and far-reaching -- for one thing, a broken UK Internet will make it harder for people who care about fox hunts one way or the other to organise and lobby on the issue.

Now, 38 Degrees is asking Britons to write to their MPs and ask them to call for a full debate on this law before they vote on it. It seems stupid that we'd have to ask our elected reps to actually give sweeping proposals consideration before turning them into law, but there you have it. No matter what side you come down on for the Digital Economy Bill, is there anyone who wants law to be made without debate?

Dear [Insert MP Name]

I'm writing to you today because I'm very worried that the Government is planning to rush the Digital Economy Bill into law without a full Parliamentary debate.

The law is controversial and contains many measures that concern me. The controversial Bill deserves proper scrutiny so please don't let the government rush it through. Many people think it will damage schools and businesses as well as innocent people who rely on the internet because it will allow the Government to disconnect people it suspects of copyright infringement.

Industry experts, internet service providers and huge internet companies like Google and Yahoo are all opposing the bill - yet the Government seems intent on forcing it through without a real debate.

As a constituent I am writing to you today to ask you to do all you can to ensure the Government doesn't just rush the bill through and deny us our democratic right to scrutiny and debate.

[Insert your Name]

Don't rush through extreme web laws


  1. The last time I looked, the Hunting Act 2004 was firmly in place in the UK, although an amendment to ban hunting completely was rejected in the House of Lords.

    I’ll be writing a customised version of your letter to my MP though. MPs can detect a form letter quite easily and treat them poorly, and I urge anyone joining in on this to show some individuality

  2. Wrote to my MP again, though I already have and she pretty much just forwarded me Stephen Timm’s reply. Pointed out that her Lib Dem opposition candidate here responded to a similar note from me by pushing forward an Internet Freedom measure at Conference.

  3. And if it’s of help to anyone – find out who your local MP is here:

    And I agree with taking a moment to alter the form letter – especially if there is a point that you think is worth driving home…and if you think perhaps your local MP is too tech savvy, and you are, tell them to contact you if they want to discuss your issues!

  4. It may be far from perfect, but I did expand the main paragraph as below, when I sent mine via

    “The proposed law is controversial and contains many measures that concern me. This controversial Bill deserves proper scrutiny so please don’t let the government rush it through. Many people think it will damage schools and businesses as well as innocent people who rely on the Internet because it will allow the Government to disconnect people it merely suspects of copyright infringement, based on unverified allegations from interested (and biased) third parties that a particular connection may have been used for an infringing activity, irrespective of whether that connection’s owner/subscriber was involved or aware.”

  5. Sadly, my MP, Martin Salter (Labour, Reading West) doesn’t respond to emails from constituents and certainly doesn’t care anything about net freedom. I’ve send him a number of emails regarding this topic.
    Why? He’s leaving Parliament after this session, so there’s no reason to communicate if he’s not gaining something from it.


  6. Sent mine – including an offer to chat about my concerns (not lauding myself as an expert by any means) and pointing out the restriction to important rights – such as banking, job searches, education and local updates.

    We’ll see how my local Labour MP does…Not really holding out much hope – but I’d be happy to be pleasantly suprised.

  7. Oh my.

    Firstly, that letter is badly written. “The law is controversial … The controversial Bill”… Use a thesaurus, for crying out loud.

    Secondly, burying MPs under masses of identikit form emails to MPs is a perfect way to not only get your message ignored, but also weaken the messages of those who have taken the time to write in more detail. What 38degrees have done here is completely counterproductive. And yet, judging by Twitter’s #38degrees tag, that’s exactly what is happening.

    Crib from existing letters if you want (even my own if you like), but write your own. Use writetothem to easily locate your MP and send the message. But please don’t cut and paste a generic letter.

  8. Sent mine in. I have suspicions that my Lib Dem MP, Susan Kramer, is a waste of space. It’ll be interesting to read any reply.

    I brought attention to the effect this would have on open wireless, and the ease with which it will be evaded. This should be exactly the type of thing Lib Dems stand up against so I’ll be disappointed if they don’t.

  9. Yes: absolutely avoid form letters. The provided letter is for ideas only. REMIX! Google your MP, find what issues they’re interested in, and write a message aimed at those issues.

    There are good suggestions in the recent “contact your MEP” thread. Write it so that it will catch the eye of the assistant and get passed to the MP.

    And do post here any replies you get, too. It’ll help others who write to the same MP, at the very least.

  10. While a debate is vital, I think the whole subject needs some work in committee first, with expert witnesses called in to give their take on the whole thing, and the smart MPs who actually care about this stuff to draw up some sensible recommendations. However, the process having been so thoroughly mucked up by vested interests, I think we’re headed for a trainwreck in legislation.

    I already wrote to a representative Lord (who used to be my local MP) at Christmas. I might write to my actual MP, when I have some other stuff out of the way so I can write my own letter rather than sign a form letter.

  11. Here’s my MPs reply:


    Thank you for your email. I understand your concerns about some aspects of the Digital Economy Bill. I have been following the debate carefully, and there are certainly a number of points in the proposals which I believe need to be substantially amended or withdrawn.

    However, I think it is unlikely that the Digital Economy Bill will go through Parliament in its present form. That is because when there is unfinished legislation at the end of Parliament, there is a short period (known informally as the ‘wash up’) when any outstanding business is dealt with quickly. This process, however, can only be used for legislation which is uncontroversial and has cross-party support.

    In these circumstances, I cannot see how any of the controversial aspects of the Bill could be passed before the election. I agree with you that it would be wrong if they were, but this doesn’t seem to me to be a likely prospect. I will continue to take a close interest in the Bill, in any event.

    I hope this will provide you with some reassurance, but if you have any further comments or queries, do not hesitate to get in touch.


    Mark Lazarowicz MP

  12. Unfortunately my MP (Harry Cohen) is stepping down at the election after being disgraced in the expenses scandal with a second home outside of the constituency

  13. Maybe we should wait until the bill is passed. We can then issue a takedown notice on all govt. internet accounts because we suspect that the government has infringed our copyright, such as taking copies of all the emails we send without our express written consent.

  14. Similar response from my MP, Gary Streeter as in #16.

    My MP seems to think the bill will fail.. At least that’s what I think he’s saying.

    It’s not too late, the bill has only passed in the House of Lords, this means nothing, the Commons is where the Law is made.

    The Digital Economy Bill will be handled under the wash up procedures because there is certainly no time for it to go through the House of Commons before the house is dissolved. Accordingly it is open to my party to block various parts of it and I understand that very little of it indeed will ever see the light of day. I will make sure your profound concerns are passed on to my colleagues who will be dealing with this matter in the last few frenetic days of this parliament.

  15. I actually wrote a very similar letter to my MP already, off my own bat.

    @paulmclaughlin I’m sure your neighbouring MP (perhaps Stuart Bell, also labour, also local) would be sympatetic to your lack of an MP, if you wanted to write to him to make your voice heard instead.

  16. If you get a letter from your MP and you are not happy with it, especially if they have forwarded a letter from a minister or shadow minister write back. If you do not write back they will think you are happy with the response.

    Here is the Open Rights Group advice on letters

    The response you receive will be of one of two types:

    * It may be a very personal answer to questions with the promise of action. This is clearly ideal and is great news.

    * Or it may be very generic, often the language of the reply will seem to toe the party line and will respond by quoting from official statements. Do not give up, read the letter carefully, see if the questions you asked in your letter have been answered. If not, write back to the MP requesting answers to the questions you asked and, if you are not happy with part of the response, state this clearly but politely. Often this second letter is the one that the MP reads. You will be be amazed at the positive difference in tone you will get in the second response when they realise there is some thing wrong with the generic response.

    After your first letter, try to develop a regular correspondence with your MP — it also helps to encourage friends and colleagues who live in the same constituency to write as well.

    Don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ whilst you’re at it. MPs rarely receive messages of thanks for the work that they undertake on behalf of their constituents. If the MP does help, why not write a quick note?

  17. My MP, Nick Palmer (Broxtowe, Labour) thinks that the Bill will also die in the wash-up:

    “Yes, I’m familiar with the photography issue and have already raised my concerns on this (and some other aspects of the Bill).

    To clarify: the wash-up process is designed to eliminate anything contentious (because there will be no line-by-line committee stage). I’d anticipate that this section of the Bill will bite the dust in that process, and it can then be reconisdered without a rush in the next Parliament.”

    I’m a little confused as to how parts of the bill can die and not others. I hope that it all goes away until after the election when a proper debate can be had

  18. I’m always careful to dig out a little info about the *good* work the MP or MEP has done and thank them for it.

    With some, that can be hard… :P

Comments are closed.