HC Deb 23 November 2001 vol 375 cc628-38

Order for Second Reading read.

1.36 pm
Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am grateful—indeed, relieved—to have the opportunity to hold a Second Reading debate on my Bill. It is essentially the same Bill that was introduced in April by the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller). None the less, I appreciate that the House will want all the arguments properly heard, debated and scrutinised, and I shall approach our deliberations in that spirit.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the way in which he introduced the original Bill. I appreciate that he has now taken Trappist vows of silence and will not be able to speak in the debate, but when he initiated the process he built a substantial cross-party consensus, which I have endeavoured to continue, as reflected in the eclectic nature of the sponsors.

I also congratulate the Alliance Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, which did much of the background work on the Bill. It represents a large number of entrepreneurs, large and small manufacturers, retailers and creative artists, whose livelihoods depend on the defeat of counterfeiting and piracy. I have an indirect interest in that my eldest son is an opera singer and I am looking forward to the days when he can rely on income from his recordings rather than on my parliamentary salary.

I acknowledge the role of another key organisation, the Federation against Copyright Theft—FACT—which is located in my constituency. It has the important function of working with the police and trading standards officers to plan the raids that are crucial to the enforcement of action against copyright theft.

I will set out what the Bill would do and why it is necessary, before dealing with a few of the technical points which would be more appropriately covered in Committee, if we reach that stage. The Bill is comparatively long and complex, but the principle behind it is simple. The complexity is due to the need to make a large number of insertions in existing legislation. The aim is to stop criminals from thinking that copyright crime is an easy option.

It is also important to understand what it does not do. The Bill would not create new criminal activities; essentially, acts that are not criminal will not be criminalised by the Bill. It aims to rationalise existing legislation and would achieve three objectives in particular.

First, the maximum penalty for involvement in copyright theft would be extended from two years to 10 to bring copyright legislation into line with trademark legislation. There is no logical reason for two sets of intellectual property law to impose different criminal sanctions, so the Bill would align and harmonise those.

Secondly, the powers of search would be strengthened, and the prosecuting authorities and the police would be able to use them to secure evidence for a criminal prosecution. Thirdly, the power of forfeiture would be strengthened, again to bring copyright legislation into line with trademark legislation. The Bill would harmonise different aspects of intellectual property law, but it would harmonise upwards and reinforce sanctions against criminal activity so as to acknowledge the subject's importance.

Why is the subject important? First, copyright theft operates on a large scale and the industry estimates that £9 billion a year is involved, although the explanatory note refers to £8 billion. The sums are large and that money would otherwise accrue to creative artists, entrepreneurs and workers in industries that produce goods legitimately.

The nature of the modern economy is such that, as we move further from traditional agriculture and metal bashing, more and more national wealth is created through knowledge-based industries and creativity. It is important that that is properly rewarded and that property rights are respected. That is the underlying basis for the concern about such large-scale theft

A supporting reason why the subject is important is consumer protection. There is a popular myth that a cheap Harry Potter video at a car boot sale is an attractive purchase, but a lot of practical experience shows that consumers are exploited by counterfeits, which can be dangerous. There are many recorded examples of perfumes and skin creams being adulterated, of cheap toys disintegrating in the mouths of toddlers and of substandard audio and video recordings ripping off the consumer. The Bill would protect not only property rights, but consumers.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

There is a Chanel factory in my constituency. We in south Croydon are only too aware of not only substandard goods, but complete fakes. The hon. Gentleman may come to trademarks, but does the Bill address imitation goods?

Dr. Cable

Yes, it relates entirely to that issue. Fakes are part of counterfeit. Indeed, Chanel perfumes are a commonly quoted example, and a haul from a particular raid included Chanel bottles filled with an unmentionable yellow liquid. Various people were duped into buying that fake product, so the hon. Gentleman's concerns are valid. They are covered by the Bill.

The Bill is important for another powerful supporting reason, which does not relate to theft from the entrepreneur or the creative artist. There is also theft from the taxpayer. It is estimated that the Treasury loses about £1.5 billion a year in tax that would otherwise have been paid. We all seek the nirvana in which we finance increased public services without increasing tax and such measures are an important step along that road.

The final major argument in respect of the need to strengthen the law is that much evidence suggests that organised crime, not just petty Del Boy operators, is moving in on a large scale. The National Criminal Intelligence Service has highlighted the involvement of drug barons in copyright theft and pirating, which are considered low-risk occupations because the penalties are relatively small. Such people undertake large-volume activity to recycle the proceeds of other criminal ventures. So, there is a law-and-order reason as well as commercial and consumer protection reasons why the Bill is necessary and desirable.

It is a general principle that we should take strong action against copyright theft, but the Bill is important for other reasons. First, the existing law is a mess. There is a patchwork of inconsistent pieces of legislation. We have the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Trade Marks Act 1994, which specify different penalties for no obvious reason. It is important that legislation reconciles and harmonises.

Secondly, it is important that we have legislation that makes criminal sanctions effective deterrents. Various cases have gone through the courts in recent years, including Regina v. Watson, where the Crown prosecuted a major criminal. About £350,000 of taxpayers' money was invested in that prosecution. The offender attracted a penalty of two years imprisonment, which was subsequently reduced to one year. Those who monitor the industry record that the same pirates are back in court time and again. As I have said, it is a relatively low-risk occupation with short sentences.

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House how the maximum sanctions that he is proposing compare with those for other crimes? Recently, for example, a case was highlighted in the newspapers, where a sentence of only seven years was imposed for child abuse, which was disparaged. Will he comment on comparable maximum sentences?

Dr. Cable

My brief is somewhat narrow. I am trying to achieve some consistency between different types of theft, and especially different types of property theft. The hon. Gentleman may well be right that horrendous crimes are being committed elsewhere, the sentencing for which is entirely inadequate. I am sure that there are many opportunities for him to introduce a private Member's Bill or to take another legislative approach designed to address anomalies. I can attack only on a limited front, where there is a serious anomaly.

The Bill is important for transparency. It is possible for the authorities to proceed with prosecutions against those who commit copyright theft. That can be done by using the law in an indirect way. If two or more people are involved, the charge of conspiracy to defraud can be invoked. There are some who have argued that we do not need to change the law because it is possible to find some existing power under which sanctions can be imposed. That is an unsatisfactory way to proceed. The approach is cumbersome and costly, and often it does not work. There is an enormous inherent advantage in having a law that is clear, open and completely honest in what it is designed to achieve.

I have outlined some practical reasons for bringing the Bill forward now. Counterfeit theft takes place on a large scale and it seems that it is increasing. It is a serious threat that has been identified by the criminal intelligence authorities. The legislation that I am proposing will introduce clarity. It will make criminal sanctions effective and it will introduce greater transparency into the law.

There are a few technical points, which perhaps will be best pursued in Committee. However, I shall refer to them in passing because the Bill deals with a dense area of legislation. Hon. Members may be troubled by that, or will be curious.

The hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) touched on sentencing. I stress that the sentence of 10 years imprisonment is the maximum. A sentence of such severity would rarely be invoked. The problem of someone being sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for the sort of crime that we are discussing and someone else receiving a lesser sentence for child abuse would probably not arise. It is important to have deterrent powers, and the 10-year sentence is consistent with that for other intellectual property theft.

I should say more about search warrants and search powers. There may be some sensitivity in the House about human rights in this connection. We must move carefully before additional search powers are granted. However, the Bill is quite tightly drawn. There is not the remotest prospect that the proposed legislation could be used, for example, to search a house because an individual is using a counterfeit product. That is certainly not the intention; the Bill clearly rules it out. A magistrate or a Scottish sheriff would have to demonstrate an intention to engage in substantial commercial counterfeiting operations, and that would be the basis for a search warrant. The legislation has been tested against human rights law. We should remember that people whose intellectual property is stolen have human rights, which must also be embodied in legislation.

There are complex provisions on forfeiture, which is largely a matter of legislative tidying. Different pieces of legislation relate to copyright, creative performative rights and the specific problem associated with decoding devices used to access satellite television; separate legislative provision is required for that. Separate clauses in the Bill relate to Scotland which, again, is a tidying-up operation. Intellectual property law is a reserved power, but Scotland has its own criminal system and the legislation must reflect that complexity.

Mr. Gardiner

I have been trying to interpret clause 5, which deals with forfeiture, but I am in some difficulty. It states: A court may infer for the purposes of this section"— meaning for the purpose of forfeiture—that such an offence has been committed in relation to any infringing copies or articles if it is satisfied that an offence has been committed in relation to any infringing copies or articles "which are representative of the infringing copies or articles. I do not understand why the court can infer that forfeiture applies if such items are only representative of the infringing copies. Will the hon. Gentleman clarify that?

Dr. Cable

I do not think that I can clarify it to the hon. Gentleman's satisfaction. To his credit, he has immersed himself in the detail of the Bill, and I honestly cannot answer his technical question. However, if the Bill goes into Committee, I undertake to address his intelligent and helpful point, which he has clearly thought through. If necessary, amendments would have to be tabled to deal with any anxieties that he may have. I respect the point that he made.

To conclude, I hope that the House accepts that the Bill is a useful and practical piece of legislation to deal with a genuine problem. I hope that I will have leave to take it into Committee.

1.52 pm
Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

For two years, I worked for the BBC as head of European affairs, and spent most of my time dealing with the European copyright directive. I am therefore an amateurish expert on copyright, particularly its application to broadcast media. I am sure that in the next year we shall look at incorporation of the copyright directive in United Kingdom law, so the Bill is particularly useful and timely. By its nature, copyright is a creature of legislation. Before 1709, there was no such concept as copyright in UK law other than the right given to publishers, as opposed to authors, for their books not to be copied by other people. In 1709, the Statute of Anne gave copyright to the author, rather than the publisher; that copyright applied to the work, rather than the book itself.

The Bill is important. The advent of the computer or, for that matter, that of the photocopier in, I think, 1949, has made it far easier for people to copy and the general public to get used to copying without considering that they might be stealing from somebody else. If that is the case, it is all the more important to give stronger teeth to the law that provides back-up and essential support to copyright owners.

Mr. Gardiner

Is my hon. Friend aware that each year many children go into music exams, play their pieces, and are told by the examiners at the end that they will not receive any mark because they have used copyright music? The entire examination is invalidated. It is a great testimony to the boards of music that they take so seriously the infringement of the copyright of the music publishers that they refuse to issue a grade to the student, who must resit the exam at a subsequent date.

Mr. Bryant

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I was not aware of the recondite matter of music examinations. I never got very far with my cello lessons.

My hon. Friend's remarks help to underline the fact that in any delineation of copyright, the private, economic and moral rights that adhere to the copyright holder, and the criminal sanctions that apply to those who infringe copyright, it is important for us to bear in mind the rights-holder's interests and to allow fair dealing exemptions, as has been the practice in British common law.

For example, much of the discussion on the continent in recent years has been about whether, when one is filming for the news outside the Lloyd's building, there should be an exemption for the copyright building, which is shown on the news. In other countries in Europe, there is no exemption for such buildings, and in theory, the newscaster must get permission from the copyright owner—the architect who designed the building—before it can be shown on the news. Most of us in this country would consider that a rather foolish way to proceed.

The concept of copyright in English common law is very different from the droit d'auteur under the French Napoleonic code, which affects most of the rest of European law on the matter. We need strong sanctions in this country, which has founded most of its industrial success over the past 250 years on the ability to create new ideas, patent them, tale them forward into the marketplace and build financial value out of creativity. That is why I welcome the Bill.

Already, in some of the press coverage of the Bill and in television discussions about it, it has come across strongly that the process of protecting the rights of copyright and patent owners needs to be strengthened, and that the process of copying and the buying of cheap goods from a street stall on a Friday afternoon—rip-off or fake goods—is not in anyone's interest, other than the thieves. The Bill will play an important role in transforming public perceptions about rights-holders.

There are many rights-holders who still have a complicated relationship to copyright. I shall give a small example. A designer of theatre sets would usually keep the copyright for ever. For instance, the designer of the set for "Les Miserables"—however one wants to pronounce that—

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

The Glums.

Mr. Bryant

I thank the hon. Gentleman.

The set designer has retained his copyright throughout, and made a significant amount of money. That is not true of rights-holders who provide sets for television programmes.

There are many areas in which copyright still has to be reformed and in respect of which we must consider more closely the process whereby an individual earns his money. In the end, that is what we are talking about: people spending often vast amounts of money, time, and creative and physical energy to produce ideas that can be brought to a market. Stealing that intellectual property should be a crime that receives the full sanction of the law. The legal sanctions that are currently available are too limited—the problem that the Bill would help to remedy—and are difficult to impose, for the simple reason that it is hard for the police and relevant authorities to pursue people who are infringing the copyright of others.

I should like to make one final point that is important in terms of the public perception of what is happening. People should not start to worry about suddenly being unable to record a television programme that is broadcast on a Monday and then watch it on a Wednesday. The copyright directive, which we will doubtless incorporate into law in the next 12 to 18 months, and also other provisions in current UK law, make it clear that there should be a fair-dealing exemption, just as there are exemptions for research, private study, the reporting of current events and so on. It is important that fair-dealing exemptions remain in place and that we do not take those rights for granted. We must not only pursue them, but ensure that those who have brought to the world their great ideas and imaginative creations are given an opportunity to earn a decent crust from doing so.

I should add that it is, in many ways, no surprise that Trollope said that if one takes away from English authors their copyright, one takes away from England its authors. That is true of every single one of the industries that are affected by patent and copyright law. If one takes away the sanctions that they require and which the Bill would enhance, one takes away their opportunity to earn an honest crust.

2.2 pm

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

It is a great pleasure to make a brief contribution to the debate and to see in the Chamber the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), who promoted a similar Bill in the previous Parliament.

I entirely agree with everything that has been said so far. I rise to speak because my constituency is the home of the European Leisure Software Publishers Association, which is situated in the village of Offenham. I have had regular correspondence with the association over the years. It has been lobbying actively for the introduction of a Bill such as this, so it is a pleasure briefly to express my support in the House.

We are told that the Alliance Against Counterfeiting and Piracy estimates that UK industry loses almost £9 billion a year—a figure that has been mentioned—at a cost to the Treasury of £1.5 billion in receipts. This is, therefore, a private Member's Bill that seems not to spend money for the Government, but to raise it, which is unusual. A third of the losses to which I have referred occur in the interactive leisure games software industry, at a cost of some £3 billion a year. As the Alliance Against Counterfeiting and Piracy says: With losses of this magnitude, there is a possibility that innovation could be stifled. Why should a business pay millions of pounds to research, develop and market a new product only to find that the expected profits are wiped out by counterfeiters, pirates or producers of look-alike goods? That is absolutely right.

The UK electronic games market, which is of particular interest to me, has recently seen huge growth in the UK. Of course, there is enormous British innovation in that industry, which, I am told, has grown by some 111 per cent. in the past three years—a surprisingly accurate figure. As it costs some £2 million to produce a top-selling interactive programme, one can see how much more growth could occur in that market if the Bill were enacted, so I very much hope that it reaches the statute book.

However, we are considering the interests not only of the industry, but of consumers and the general public. ELSPA, the organisation in my constituency, has said that, in 80 per cent. of the raids that it has carried out in the past year, evidence was found of additional crimes ranging from fraud and drug-running to prostitution and child pornography.

I especially welcome the fact that the Bill matches trademark law, and that infringements will therefore no longer be a low risk option for organised crime. Hon. Members should be pleased about that. The former Royal Ulster Constabulary recently arrested three suspects, who were in possession of thousands of pirate videos and CDs. They believe that the Real IRA used counterfeiting as a major source of funding. The Bill has major, wide implications and I hope that it will reach the statute book as quickly as possible.

2.5 pm

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford)

I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable), not only on his result in the ballot but on the subject that he has chosen for the Bill. If I had been as fortunate as him, I would have seriously considered introducing such a Bill. The best help that I can give it is to be brief.

The Bill will offer significant extra protection to the creative industries. In this country, we have an extraordinarily good reputation in those industries. I have an especial interest in the music industry, which has not always had the recognition that it deserves for its contribution to our economy and our country. Its economic value is approximately £4.6 billion and we have long been successful in it. If we consider the charts or record sales in almost any country in the world, British acts feature at the top.

It has occasionally been reported that I have an interest in rock music. To give one example, I like Iron Maiden, not only because of its admirable name but because of its music. There are people in Japan whose knowledge of this country and impetus for learning English is based on support for a British band such as Iron Maiden. In garages, sheds and barns in every constituency, young people are making music, hoping to become successful musicians one day. They can do that only if the record industry continues to thrive. The Bill offers it extra protection, which it badly needs.

The British film industry is worth approximately £3 billion. It is successful at making widely recognised movies, such as "The Full Monty" or "East is East". Major films such as the "Star Wars" series, "Saving Private Ryan", "The Mummy" and the Harry Potter film were made in this country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) mentioned ELSPA. Like me, he is the father of young children and I am sure that he is familiar with games such as "Tomb Raider" and "Quake". I have been known to assist my son in playing them.

All those industries make a major contribution to our economy and are under threat. The music industry estimates that copyright theft results in 1.8 billion units of pirated material on the global market. Almost a third of CDs are pirate copies. That does great damage to many firms that are involved in marketing intellectual property. My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly), who is unfortunately unable to be present, has drawn my attention to two firms in his constituency. The Producers is based in St. Ives and says that it has lost £1.5 million through counterfeiting. Just Flight is also based in St. Ives and has lost £1 million due to counterfeiting.

It is normal practice in debate for hon. Members to refer to their constituencies with pride. However, I read an item in my local paper with no pride. It gave an account of a raid that took place on a chicken shed outside Maldon a few months ago. It led to the discovery of a pirate CD factory with 50,000 CDs and 200,000 pieces of forged art work. The person responsible was prosecuted and was recently jailed for 21 months. I derive no pleasure from one of my constituents being sent to jail, but I welcome such a sentence because it may increase the recognition that such activities constitute theft. The hon. Member for Twickenham was right to state that fact clearly. Intellectual property is as valuable as material property and it deserves the same protection.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire rightly pointed out that it is not only small-scale enterprises in chicken sheds that are involved. Organised crime is heavily involved and even terrorists now see the enormous sums that can be made from illegal counterfeiting activity. There is a need for increased protection and the hon. Member for Twickenham has made a powerful case for tightening the law. We, the official Opposition, fully support his Bill and I hope that it will pass on to the statute book in due course.

2.10 pm
The Minister for Employment and the Regions (Alan Johnson)

The Bill is before the House for a second time. I was not present for its first appearance, although my Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) was, as it was his Bill. I am pleased to be here today to confirm that the Government continue to lend their full support to the measures in the Bill. We are grateful to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) for introducing it in this Session. He is the father of an opera singer, and if we are declaring our interests I should say that my eldest son wasted his degree by becoming a musician, recording engineer and contracted songwriter, so I know all about the issues.

The previous Bill, unfortunately, failed through lack of time. To make sure that that does not happen today, I shall confine my remarks to specific issues. First, I want to make it absolutely clear that the Bill is designed to deal more effectively and appropriately with those who use the results of other people's creativity and investment deliberately and without permission with the intention of making money for themselves. It is directed against those who use property—intellectual property—that does not belong to them for profit and in the knowledge that doing so is wrong.

The effect of that theft on the owners of IP rights is clear. The hon. Member for Twickenham, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) and the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) have explored the wider effects. Consumers are often cheated, although we sometimes have a hard job convincing them of that. Jobs in legitimate businesses, from high street shops to big manufacturing plants, are put at risk, are lost or are simply not created in the first place. I suspect that examples of that can be found in the constituencies of the majority of MPs.

Perhaps most alarming are the links between IP crime and serious organised crime, which are becoming more and more apparent. The latest threat assessment from the National Criminal Intelligence Service noted that more than two thirds of the organised crime groups reported to be involved in IP theft were known also to be involved in drugs trafficking. Furthermore, groups involved in organised immigration crime are known to use illegal immigrants as cheap labour working in sweatshops producing counterfeit goods.

IP crime is neither a victimless crime nor one committed by lovable rogues. We cannot cheerfully ignore it. Tackling IP crime opens up the possibility of having an impact on serious crime in general in the UK. By investigating the selling of fakes in street markets, law enforcers may uncover much other wrongdoing, from VAT fraud to drug dealing. We must therefore provide law enforcers with the tools they need to do that work effectively, where they deem that to be appropriate.

The Bill rightly addresses some of the inconsistencies between related provisions in the current law that was set in 1988 on copyright, and in 1994 on trademarks. Perhaps there are ways around the loopholes that the Bill would close, but it remains an extremely useful measure in terms of making the job of enforcers, especially the police, easier and making the law more transparent. Greater transparency will provide clearer deterrence and it might convince some of those who regard IP crime as a soft option not to engage in it.

The Bill is not over-ambitious for a private Member's Bill. Despite its apparent complexity, no part of it is not more or less copied from provisions already in IP law. In many ways, it is fair to regard the Bill as a harmonising measure that equalises criminal provisions between trademark law and copyright law where differences make no sense.

Of course, not all cases of IP crime are equally serious and it is certainly not possible to argue that all cases of trademark theft should attract the current maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and/or up to 10 years in prison. However, in the most serious cases, in which industry may have lost millions of pounds, consumers may have been badly deceived by fakes and there may have been wider effects on society, that sentence might be justified and should be available as a sentencing option. We cannot justify the continuation of the much less severe maximum penalty for a copyright offence, which is currently a fine and/or a maximum term of imprisonment of only two years. Copyright theft can be just as serious as trademark theft. There is no justification for the difference.

There is already a provision permitting the police to seek search warrants if they have reasonable grounds for believing that some of the copyright offences have been or are about to be committed, so applying that more widely across IP offences makes sense, too. Copying the existing, useful trademark provisions on forfeiture of illegal goods that have beer seized during an investigation into the copyright and related areas is also worth while.

In supporting the Bill, the Government have carefully considered its human rights implications. We have taken advice on that very important matter and believe the Bill to be compatible with the European convention on human rights. Its provisions provide a balanced and acceptable solution to the problems of IP crime.

All those in the public and private sectors with an interest in fighting IP crime are collaborating more and more closely. Relevant issues are discussed at a strategic level in the Counterfeiting and Piracy Forum, which brings representatives from the private and public sectors around the same table with the Government. Earlier this year, the Government supported the signing of a memorandum of understanding between all the public sector enforcement interests—including the police, Customs and trading standards officers—and industry bodies active against IP crime on behalf of their members. We will continue to explore and facilitate co-operative and closer working where we can.

Mr. Luff

Can the Minister give the House an idea of the Bill's implications for the single market? Are there any European implications of which we should be aware before giving the Bill a Second Reading?

Alan Johnson

Not as far as I am aware, but if that statement turns out not to be true when inspiration hits me in a few moments time, I will write to the hon. Gentleman.

Raising public awareness about the effects of IP crime is an extremely difficult job and we are under no illusion that success will be easy. We have supported several awareness-raising activities, including the launch last year in north-west England of a Crimestoppers campaign against counterfeiting. That limited campaign had some lasting effects on public perceptions, and led to an increased number of reports of criminal activity. We are pleased, therefore, to support the launch in early December of a national Crimestoppers campaign. After a launch event in London, there will be a rolling programme of regional events that will, we hope, attract the public's attention.

That activity will continue regardless of the fate of the Bill. The Bill delivers a useful rationalisation of the law applying to IP theft, and the support of the House today will play a significant part in raising awareness of the crime, which certainly is not victimless. A judge sentencing two Russian criminals in London earlier this year for an operation involving significant counterfeiting of CDs, linked to credit card fraud, said that it was a sophisticated, well organised and well planned fraud". The Bill will play a part in helping to fight such crimes.

Thinking on my feet, as always, and unconnected with this piece of paper that has been passed to me, I have realised that the Bill raises no EU obligations. The EU is considering IP enforcement issues, but no firm proposals have yet been made. I hope that I have avoided the need for a letter to the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire.

In conclusion, the Government support the Bill and all the rationalisations that it will introduce. We hope that other Members will do likewise. IP crime is an important issue that needs to be treated more seriously. It is as bad as other crimes in that general area. I know that many members of the public do not feel harmed by IP crime because they like the idea of a bargain. However, IP crime is not about bargains; it is about criminals and serious harm to us all. It is a crime that is almost certainly committed in every constituency in the UK. That is why we must give the Bill a Second Reading. I reaffirm the Government's intention to continue to offer it support in its later stages.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).