Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:11 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Adam Afriyie Adam Afriyie Shadow Minister (Science and Innovation) 9:11 pm, 6th April 2010

I should like to make a little more headway and then I will give way several times, as we shall not have much opportunity beyond today to examine the legislation.

At the height of the dotcom boom, new Labour talked about modernising Government IT. They talked about the digital economy, but they were not digital natives, so they created an e-unit, an e-envoy and even an e-Minister. In fact, they slapped an "e" in front of anything that moved. While the pace of technological change was breathtaking, the response from the Government certainly was not. They have had ample opportunity to face up to the realities of the digital economy and the digital age, but they have failed to do so. They promised competition and innovation in the media industry, but they have chosen to subsidise and entrench old business models. They promised a modern communications infrastructure but they have delivered some of the slowest broadband speeds in the world. We are ranked 40th in the world. Labour has left Britain in the broadband slow lane, behind countries such as Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova. That was a fantastic achievement-and that was irony.

The Government promised a copyright system fit for the digital age. In the meantime, the music and film industries have lost millions, if not hundreds of millions, through illegal downloads. What is Labour's answer to the new digital economy? Old-style taxes, old-style subsidies and old-style regulation. The Bill is nothing like the measure we wished to see. It is nothing like a Bill that will kick-start the digital economy. It is a Betamax Bill from a bewildered Government who seem startled and dazzled by the lights of modernity and the open data challenges.

There have been some fantastic contributions to the debate. There were good speeches from both sides, and it is frustrating that there has not been time to examine the issues more carefully. My right hon. Friend Mr. Davis said clearly that he was completely opposed to the Bill unless there was time to scrutinise and review particular aspects relating to civil liberties. I salute his integrity on those issues.

My hon. Friend Peter Luff, who is Chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, pointed out that a large part of the Bill relates to the business aspects of the digital economy and that there has not been time to examine them in detail. I shall come to some of his other remarks in a moment.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff and Penrith-

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