UK legislation for electronic commerce descended into farce this week. Although a bill is ready to be published, a parliamentary technicality has given the Conservative opposition the right to kill it entirely.
The government is so late in publishing its Electronic Communications Bill - formerly known as the Electronic Commerce Bill - that it can now only do so with opposition consent.
Senior members of the Conservative party, including John Redwood, former shadow trade and industry minister, have said that no such legislation is necessary. Tories in the shadow trade and industry team said the party has not yet decided on the issue.
Angela Browning, shadow trade and industry minister, said she is taking industry soundings about the bill, and is getting "very mixed messages".
Digital signatures are already considered legal by experts in English common law and proposed controls over the use of encryption have already been dropped from the bill.
Because of a busy schedule and the delays in introducing the bill, the government is invoking a new procedure to allow the bill to rollover from one parliamentary session to another. This requires opposition approval.
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