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 an important point, and I commend to him what the Mayor of London has done to try to bring order to that particular element of chaos.

I want to say plainly to the Government that, while we recognise that some parts of the Bill will have to be let through if we are to avoid serious damage to the economy, other parts of it are totally unacceptable, and we will use every parliamentary means at our disposal to remove them. They include the additional duties for Ofcom, which are at best unnecessary and at worst completely distorting. For example, the duty to promote investment in communications infrastructure is already covered by the Communications Act 2003. Indeed, following a year-long campaign by the Conservatives, with support from the Select Committee, Ofcom did precisely that by announcing a consultation to allow other people access to BT's ducts and poles in order to lay super-fast broadband fibre. However, there are no measures in the Bill to broaden that access to sewers, water mains and electricity pylons. Where are the measures to make it easier to get planning approval for fibre? Where are the proposals to regularise business rates so that they do not discourage investment in fibre? They are not in the Bill. For this Government, the answer is not to do something but to lay yet another regulatory duty on Ofcom. In this case, that duty is unnecessary, bureaucratic and costly, and it will go.

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