The controversial Digital Economy Bill designed to curb online piracy was forced through Parliament last night.

Entertainment retailers such as HMV will welcome the law, which is designed to clamp down on illegal file sharers that threaten the UK’s creative industries.  HMV has seen CD sales plummet in the face of growing illegal downloading.

After just two hours of debate the Government secured 189 votes to 47, but has been lambasted for trying to rush through the bill during the “wash-up period” of Parliament - the last few days of Parliament before its dissolution in the run up to a general election. Critics have complained the issue was too important for it to be pushed through without proper debate.

Under the terms of the bill, which has been watered down after complaints from MPs and the public, internet service providers (ISPs) will be obliged to send letters to any of their subscribers linked to alleged infringement.

Copyright holders will be able to take action against serious infringers, while ISPs would be able to suspend their accounts.

Former minister Tom Watson said it would be a “catastrophic disaster” if the bill went through, citing the 20,000 members of the public that complained to their MPs about it in the last week alone.

Watson cautioned that the bill could lead to innocent internet users being caught simply by living in the same building as infringers.