Thursday, March 18, 2010

Liberal Democrat peer reveals self to be in own pocket

You'll recall our friend Lord Clement-Jones, who effectively attempted to cede law-making powers to a few record companies by pasting the BPI's choice of wording as an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill?

It turns out that along with offering Sony and Universal the chance to have a go at writing a law, he also neglected to mention that when he's not nipping into the Lords to tell us what to do, he works - sort-of - for a legal firm that isn't disinterested in the issue of copyright law:

Lord Clement-Jones is a partner at DLA Piper, which has worked closely with the FA Premier League to clamp down on websites offering live coverage of football games without the organisation's permission, and also advised Universal Music about its digital music plans. The amendment he moved could have resulted in YouTube being blocked.

It's not just the laws of common decency that suggests he might have mentioned that he had a financial interest in extending the boundaries of copyright law; it's also the rule of the Lords, too.

When The Guardian asked him how come he never mentioned this at the start of the debate, as he's supposed to, the noble Lord had a bit of a bluster:
Clement-Jones said it would be "completely ludicrous" for him to declare an interest before every debate which might touch upon the activities of DLA Piper's clients. "When did you ever see a partner in a law firm declare their partnership before the beginning of the debate?" he said.

"Do you know how many clients we have in DLA Piper? Thousands upon thousands. We have 70 offices across the world, we act for every side of the argument: for content providers, internet service providers, technical companies who provide the hardware, software, a massive range. It would be completely ludicrous.

"I am not particularly sympathetic to the idea that I have got to stand up and tell everybody that I am the partner in DLA Piper every time I open my mouth."

No, that might be a bit of a faff, I can see that. Here's an idea though: if you have thousands and thousands of reasons why your interventions in the Lords might intersect with one of your clients, why don't you remain sitting down and keep quiet? Better yet, how about turning in your furry collar and stop embarrassing the Liberal Democrats by being neither liberal nor democratic.