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

First, let me say that when the hon. Gentleman stepped down as Minister for the creative industries, it was a great shame that he was not replaced. It would have helped in the sensible framing of the Bill if we had had a Minister with that responsibility now, but there is none. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is simply this: when we migrate from one technology to another-whether analogue to DAB, or DAB to DAB plus-we need some kind of help scheme, as we have with TV digital switchover, but there is no mention of a help scheme in this Bill. That serves to highlight why the Government have ducked the important decisions.

I conclude by talking about what this Bill should have contained. It should have asked one simple question: what needs to be done to stimulate investment in Britain's digital and creative industries by both domestic and international companies? Companies that thrive in the digital world tend to be small, nimble and fleet of foot. They thrive on competition and deregulation, not subsidy and regulation. A Conservative Government will end the micro-regulation of the broadcasting sector. We will stimulate investment in a new generation of local television, radio and newspaper companies by removing the cross-media ownership rules at the local level. Because we want these companies to employ more people, we will reverse the tax on jobs-the national insurance increase-that the Government plan, and we will go further, encouraging job creation by ensuring that start-up companies need pay no national insurance at all on their first 10 employees for the first year.

We will reduce corporation tax by simplifying complicated allowances, aiming for Britain to have one of the most competitive tax rates in Europe. That will help all companies, but in the creative and digital space people need something more-a proper digital infrastructure. By considering some of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills, we will deregulate access to BT's ducts and pipes, as well as water mains, sewers and pylons, and stimulate investment in next-generation broadband by other players, not simply depend on BT. Where the market will provide, we will let it; where it will not, we have said we will continue the levy on the licence fee that is currently imposed for digital switchover, to ensure that no one is left out of the digital revolution, especially in rural areas.

In short, we could have had a proper Digital Economy Bill. We wanted an iPod, but we got an Amstrad. We wanted digital switchover, but we ended up with analogue switch-off. It is time to reboot Britain, and only the Conservatives can deliver that.

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