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

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and indeed the Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills, which he chairs, wrote an excellent report on that very topic. If we are to stimulate investment in next-generation fibre networks, we need to break open all the infrastructure monopolies, whether on pylons, water mains or sewers, not just those on BT's ducts and pipes. That is the only way that we can stimulate such investment, and it could have been in the Bill, because it requires primary legislation. It is not: another opportunity has been missed.

All too often, where the Government have suggested change they have resorted to the Labour comfort zones of tax, regulation and subsidy as the answer to every problem. On tax, there is a phone tax to pay for next-generation broadband, which means that older people who do not use the internet will be paying for younger people who want faster connections. Even on the Government's own figures, such a tax would put 200,000 people off taking up a broadband connection. On regulation, the Government's reliance on Government levers is so heavy that Ofcom is mentioned 187 times in just 50 clauses of this Bill.

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