Singer Elton John has written to business secretary Peter Mandelson to back the clampdown on music piracy.

Lord Mandelson is currently considering whether to increase penalties for illegal file-sharers, an issue which has sparked anger among a number of high-profile artists.

Following Lily Allen’s attack on those who download illegally, John called for heavier punishments, saying the practice damages the careers of young musicians.

John, who has been in the news this month for his plans to adopt an orphaned Ukranian baby, said: “For what it is worth, I am of the view that the unchecked proliferation of illegal downloading (even on a ‘non-commercial’ basis) will have a seriously detrimental effect on musicians, and particularly young musicians and those composers who are not performing artists.”

James Blunt has also joined the campaign, writing a letter to The Times to say that internet service providers should take more responsibility for “handling stolen goods”.

However, some artists such as Blur and Annie Lennox, have accused record labels of being stubborn and are arguing that heavier penalties for individuals are not the answer.

The Featured Artists Coalition, which also includes Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Billy Bragg and Tom Jones, argues that it does not condone file-sharing but would like to see legislation targeted at websites which make money from music piracy, rather than people who download music for their personal use.

The FAC said in a statement: “We have negotiated in good faith with the labels all week, but they remain wedded to the idea of suspension of accounts. We remain steadfast in our belief that making threats against individual music fans is not an effective way to resolve any problems associated with file-sharing.

“The focus of our objection is the proposed treatment of ordinary music fans who download a few tracks so as to check out our material before they buy. For those of us who don’t get played on the radio or mentioned in the music media … peer-to-peer recommendation is an important form of promotion.”

The consultation period over the issue will end on September 29th.