The Government has proposed an amendment to the controversial web-blocking proposals recently added to the Digital Economy Bill. Instead of creating the blocking powers immediately, the amendment would give the Secretary of State the power to do so at some future date. This would be done by Statutory Instrument (SI) – a process that permits some Parliamentary scrutiny, but less than a full debate on primary legislation.
The amendment sets out a number of things that such an SI must contain, and some that it may contain. For example an injunction must only be granted if prior notice has been sent to both the site to be blocked and the ISP that will be the subject of the order, and the court must take account of proportionality and the effect on free speech (arguably Courts must consider those anyway, under the Human Rights Act). Provisions on costs are one of the optional inclusions, though in an accompanying letter the secretary of state states that ISPs “should not have to bear court costs”: a significant, though not yet binding, reversal of the original Amendment 120A proposal.
Most commentators (see the Guardian article and its links), seem to regard this proposal as being better than the original Amendment 120A, now clause 18 of the Bill, but note that it is missing some of the safeguards included in the second Amendment proposed by Liberal Democrat peers which was never put to the vote in the Lords. As with so much of the Bill, it seems that we will only discover the actual impact of the legislation long after it is passed.