Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 4:44 pm, 6th April 2010

This afternoon, on the very day when time has finally been called on a weak, dithering and incompetent Government, we are faced with a weak, dithering and incompetent attempt to breathe life into Britain's digital economy. One does have to admire the Government's chutzpah, because one of their five key election pledges is apparently to build a high-tech economy. This afternoon the country will be able to judge them by their record, because we have an entire parliamentary Bill setting out their vision-one of the very last that this Parliament will debate.

Instead of a big, ambitious vision for this country, we have a digital disappointment of colossal proportions. As well as the controversial measures it does contain, we should not forget what it does not contain, because it is a catalogue of ducked decisions. The Government have ducked sorting out digital radio switchover, which the Secretary of State has just talked about. They are giving Ministers the power to switch over in 2015, yes, but without taking any of the difficult measures necessary to make it practical or possible. They have ducked reforms to help our struggling local newspaper and radio sector, when local newspapers are closing every week and local radio stations are losing so much money that their very existence is being cast into doubt.

The Government have ducked reforms to give Britain a credible path towards super-fast broadband, leaving us languishing with one of the slowest broadband networks in the developed world. They have ducked public service broadcasting reform, failing both to clarify the limits to commercial activity by the BBC and to ensure that it has strong competition from an independent sector that will still be burdened by outdated regulation.

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