The UK Government has addressed fears that the Digital Economy Bill will not be passed before the General Election.
The Bill, which looks at age ratings, broadband and illegal file-sharing, has yet to go before the House of Commons. And there are just 35 days left in which the legislation can be addressed.
Certain parts of the Digital Economy Bill are hotly contested, including parts that deal with illegal file-sharing.
However, leading political figures including Keith Vaz, Don Foster, Ed Vaizey and Siôn Simon, believe that certain parts of the Bill could be fast-tracked through Parliament – including making the PEGI ratings system enforceable by law.
“Because of the length of time it now looks likely the Digital Economy Bill will take, there is a real possibility that time will run out to complete its passage through both Houses before the forthcoming general election,” said MP for Bath Don Foster in a parliamentary debate.
“Swiftness is the essence of why we are here today. It is vital that we get back on to the statute book, as quickly as possible, legislation that provides protection against the sale of inappropriate material to children and counters the ability of people to sell pirate DVDs and so on.
“We have all made it clear that we are keen to support the Minister in his desire to fast-track the legislation back on to the statute book and then to make, if there is sufficient time—I am increasingly concerned about that—subsequent amendments to it in light of, for instance, the introduction of the PEGI system for video games. There is support for that on both sides of the House.”
Culture, Media and Sports Minister Siôn Simon agreed it was important to get the Bill passed, and said it will need the support of both the Labour and Conservatives to see it through before the deadline.
“We have every intention of getting the Digital Economy Bill in its entirety on to the statute book although, in order to do that, we will be partly reliant on the good will of members of his party and of the official opposition,” he said.
“I think I have made the point. We intend to get the legislation through before the election. If the hon. Member for Bath and his hon. Friends, and right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches will help us with that, that would be the best approach for all concerned.”
Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey also joined the debate, and stated that the Conservatives backed the decision to make PEGI the legal ratings system for games.
“The Digital Economy Bill will amend the 1984 Act and bring video games into a system of statutory classification using the European rating system known as PEGI—pan European game information,” he said.
“Broadly speaking, hon. Members of all parties support that. Everybody recognises that video games should be classified under a statutory system.
"The vigorous debate that took place between the British Board of Film Classification and PEGI about the appropriate rating system was played out and a conclusion, which Conservative Members support, was reached.”