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Mr. Gibb: I shall obey your stricture, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the point that I was making goes to the root of my concerns about some of the provisions. People are not protected against such crimes. Stealing £60,000 worth of furniture is a property crime, and the lady was tied up for five hours. That should not happen. We should protect such people before we protect Louis Vuitton.
I hope that such issues will be considered in Committee. I also hope that the Committee will examine the proposed new powers of entry for the enforcement authorities. The concept that a man's home is his castle is an ancient one that goes to the very heart of our legal system. William Pitt said:
All hon. Members are concerned about the protection of intellectual property rights. We are perhaps a little less concerned about protection against false "Star Wars" videos or false Chanel perfume--both of which were referred to in the explanatory notes--than about protecting people against fake goods that cause injury to children. We are more concerned to protect patents for important, expensively developed drugs than to protect the income of Paul McCartney and producers of overpriced CDs. None the less, private property rights should be protected by the law, just as we give protection to people in their own homes.
Dr. Howells: I have rarely heard such nonsense. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the famous people and brands that he has mentioned are not worthy of protection? They offer employment to tens of thousands of people in this country, and are involved in a global trade in which this country should play a great part. In his diatribe against the Bill and all it stands for, is he saying that that does not matter? The Bill is about intellectual property rights, but I suspect that he does not understand that issue.
Mr. Gibb: No, it is a matter of priorities. We have extensive laws that protect intellectual property, which are correct and should be strengthened. We live in a society in which violent crime is out of control and people are scared in their homes at night. Is it more important to protect the income of Paul McCartney and manufacturers of overpriced CDs than to protect elderly ladies in my constituency who are alone at night?
Mr. Gibb: Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the only way to deal with terrorism in this country is to have a huge army of trading standards officers looking out for all the sources of income used by terrorists--or should we clamp down on the terrorists themselves? The Government are releasing terrorists, so they should consider their policy on terrorism and not use consumer protection legislation to deal with the problem.
The Conservatives support the principle and thrust of the Bill. We want to protect all intellectual property rights, which go to the heart of a free capitalist society. I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading so that we can debate these issues at greater length in Committee.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): My hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) was coruscating in his critique of the Bill. His manner was a little more acerbic than I had expected. He is a good personal friend outside the House, but I am bound to say to him that he was a little uncharitable towards the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller).
I have crossed swords with the hon. Gentleman a number of times, not least during the passage of the Vehicles (Crime) Bill. I irritated him, and he irritated me. I think that there is a powerful rationale for the Bill, and
One can argue the toss about the rigour, detail, exactitude and scope of copyright and patent law. There is genuine room for disagreement about how extensive it should be, and an argument about the balance between the protection of the creator or originator and the legitimate entitlements of others who seek to enter a market. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman and I would disagree about the scope for a discussion on that subject.
However, the central purpose of the Bill, which is to counteract a widespread and apparently growing phenomenon, is cogent. I was taken aback by the figure of £8 billion a year that the hon. Gentleman gave.
Mr. Bercow: Moreover, we must bear in mind the £1 billion annual loss to the Exchequer in revenues forgone. These are not trifling matters, and they ought to be weighed carefully when we consider whether to give the Bill a Committee stage.
I have several concerns. The first relates to the scope of the Bill. When I asked the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston about plagiarism, he said he thought it was broadly covered. I am not criticising him, but I fear that the Bill does not cover what many would regard as the offence, or the injustice, of plagiarism. A few moments ago, with characteristic thoughtfulness, the Under-Secretary of State showed me a note--presumably provided by those whom we are not entitled to identify in the House, still less to name, but who are employed in his service--informing me that plagiarism itself was not covered. However--this is important--if someone copies another person's work with a view to commercial distribution, that offence will be covered.
The worry in relation to plagiarism is that, if the provisions were too widely drawn, the Bill might cover someone copying another's work in a school, further education college or higher education institution. That is certainly not the intention, and, as I have said, I do not criticise the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston; but I think it important to understand what the Bill does and does not cover. What it does cover is very significant.
I have a couple of concerns which, although they certainly should not prevent the Bill's progress today, will need to be properly scrutinised in Committee. One relates to clause 2(4). Not for the first time and probably not for the last, my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton somewhat anticipated me on this point, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). My thunder was slightly, although not entirely, stolen.
As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand, I do not mean to cast aspersions on the police in any way. Nevertheless, these matters involve considerable detail and, as far as the criminal is concerned, no little sophistication. The hon. Gentleman said earlier that his Bill, in essence, was not complicated: he said that it was conceptually simple, or words to that effect. That may be true, but the hon. Gentleman made the equally valid point that the overall challenge of counteracting counterfeiting and piracy was enormous, and that a great deal of complexity was involved.
I rather appreciated the hon. Gentleman's self-effacement and modesty. So often, a Member proposing a measure will give the impression that it is a panacea. The hon. Gentleman wisely played down expectations, and said that of course it was not a panacea; it was a first step, or a start, which would no doubt be built on in the future. It is important, however, for us to be sure that the police will know how to give effect to the powers conferred on them by the Bill.
My observation at this stage--it may be that the hon. Gentleman can reassure us in Committee--is that if there is considerable complexity involved, and if a criminal has made an extremely clever copy of an original work, such as a CD or a DVD, how can we be confident that a police officer, with the many and varied responsibilities that fall within his or her remit, will be competent to judge whether a particular article is evidence of the commission of an offence under the highly complicated and detailed Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988?
My understanding is that the Bill is designed to amend the 1988 Act, which was passed under the Conservative Government. I remember, partly because I had a modest commercial interest through a client at the time, that it was a formidable piece of legislation. I make the simple point--I do not want to dilate on it or to exaggerate its significance--that we need to know that it is reasonable for us to expect the police to grasp the detail sufficiently to exercise the warrant in a way that is prudent and in a fashion that does not do violence to the legitimate rights of those who have not at that stage been convicted of any offence. I would not go beyond that today, but I think that it is a legitimate point. I hope that the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston will respond to the concern in Committee. That is my first main anxiety about the likely effectiveness of the Bill as unamended.
Secondly, I shall pick up on what my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton said about sentencing, about which I have a little anxiety. I am no wet, do-gooding, hand-wringing, feeble liberal. It will be well understood in the House that I am not an enthusiast for such an approach. Many a time and oft, I have excoriated the Government for their institutionalised wimpishness in countering crime. I am not soft on sentences. However, it is important for the integrity of the House, which I would like to see restored and enhanced, that we do not place upon the statute book provision for sentences willy-nilly and without proper regard to their likely impact.
On that point, I was a little less satisfied with what the hon. Gentleman had to say. That is no reason why we should not get on, as I hope and expect we will, to consider the Bill in Committee. I think that the hon. Gentleman owes it to himself, to the industry, to the House and to potential victims of the commission of such crime to let us know exactly what he expects from the penalties that he envisages.