Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA: in a week in which members of the commons sped back to back High Speed 2, but the number heading home from Westminster at the end of this week is lower than the number who arrived, as Newark MP Patrick Mercer resigned following a sting operation byPanorama. The by-election will be on 5 June, but will not involve Nigel Farage. Or Boris Johnson.
There is not a great deal to add from last week’s report as we approach the IP Minister’s Viscount Younger appearance before the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee next Tuesday, and the meeting of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on Wednesday. These Committees may give unfavourable reports on the Statutory Instruments and if they do that could - but would not necessarily – prompt Parliament to not give them an affirmative resolution. There is also some doubt about the timings of the Committees’ reports and whether they have to be published before the Lords votes or not. Either way, it is going to be very tight for the Government to get things through in the available sitting days – but as we have often seen with Government business in the House, a will invariably finds a way. The rejection of SIs is very unusual but does happen (members of the Lords were regaling us this week with battle stories from the Gambling Act regulations – remember the Blackpool “super casino” being kicked into touch?) and fans of Nate Silver and Nassim Nicholas Taleb will know that out-lying events aren’t impossible, just infrequent.
As a way of bolstering the argument against a private copying exception, an Early Day Motion has been tabled by Lib Dem MPs John Leech, Adrian Sanders and the SNP’s Pete Wishart (and 3 others), which calls on the government to “withdraw these draft regulations and re-lay them in amended form to ensure that the creative content-producing sector does not suffer harm.”
In the opening shot in what is likely to be an increasingly heated debate going into Election year, Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt has said Labour would “wipe the slate clean of Michael’s Gove “Kafkaesque” education system, and would replace Whitehall oversight of “atomised” schools with a new system of local school commissioners. These “Schools Standards Directors” would have the role of raising standards, handle failing schools and decide on proposals for new schools. David Blunkett – who was Education Secretary 1997-2001 - has written the report outlining the plan which, Hunt said, is aimed at clearing up the present “incoherence, confusion and lack of accountability”. The report envisages between 40 and 80 Directors located in cities and within groups of local authorities, who would have the power to intervene in all state schools, especially where Ofsted has found them to be failing, or under-performing. Labour’s plans also are to allow Ofsted to inspect academy chains; give all schools freedom over the curriculum and school day; and require all schools to audit and publish accounts online.
Try as we might we could not find a link to the Blunkett report – remarkably it was not prominent even on the Labour website. However, The Guardian (who else?) ran this Comment piece from David Blunkett as well as the news coverage.
News in from Germany, where the Christian Democrat-Socialist (CDU/CSU and SPD) grand coalition Government have called on the European Commission to accelerate its decision making with regards to the future of VAT, and in particular wishing to see the introduction of a reduced rate on e-books, e-papers and other electronic information media. Our colleagues in the Börsenverein (but which also includes retailers) are right behind their government on this point and have issued a statement calling for the proposed legislation to be taken forward rapidly; for the German government to support at European level the reduced rate of VAT; and – not one for the UK this – the preservation of fixed book pricing to ensure the diversity of books.
Almost 12 months on from the ground-breaking WIPO Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled, the EU has signed it (which is to say the Greek Presidency has done so on behalf of the EU). It will enter into force after its ratification by twenty states. I imagine you’re wondering how many states have signed so far; surprisingly this information is not available on WIPO’s website.
There is an international theme to this week’s PA’s PA, continued here with news that the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has issued itsannual “Special 301” report highlighting areas of concern with respect to IPR protection. India was marked out for attention, as was China where the report expresses “ongoing, serious concerns about the protection and enforcement of trade secrets”. The “301” gives rise to the 301 Watchlist, from which Italy and the Philippines have now been removed given their “commitment to continued progress”. But the USTR is to conduct out-of-cycle reviews to promote engagement and progress on IPR challenges as identified in India, Kuwait, Paraguay and Spain. It is worth quoting in full Ambassador Michael Froman’s comments from the report as a great example of what it looks and sounds like when a government is serious in its understanding and support for their creative industries – not that the UK Government doesn’t make comments along these lines occasionally, but just marvel the robust line:
“The United States is an innovation economy. We are the global leader in research and development. We have given rise to some of the most creative, inventive and entrepreneurial businesses in the world, contributing significantly to advances in global health, the development of the digital economy and the education and entertainment of billions of people worldwide. More than 30 million Americans owe their jobs directly to these and other innovative industries. USTR is fully committed to unlocking opportunity for those Americans to share their inventions and creations with people all over the world without their work being infringed or misappropriated”.
Who We’ve Met and Forthcoming Meetings
MPs John Whittingdale, Mike Weatherley, Teresa Coffey, Damian Collins, Gerry Sutcliffe and Lord Clement-Jones; the IPO; officials of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. Next week we will be welcoming the Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP, Shadow Culture Secretary and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party to our AGM (Thursday 10am in Bloomsbury – seats available on application) and meeting with Iain Wright MP, Shadow BIS Minister.
The spirit of Edward Snowden is present in the leaking of a draft Impact Assessment from the European Commission which will – presumably – accompany the White Paper we are all eagerly anticipating next month. Nothing too startling in here other than its surprising extraction from the usually airtight Commission. And if insomnia is a big problem, try ploughing through the 11000 responses to the Commission’s Consultation. It’s amazing how so many of them bear such a strong resemblance to each other, almost as if they were from a template or something…