Digital Economy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:49 pm on 13th September 2016.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 12:49 pm, 13th September 2016

The hon. Lady makes a very good point. I am aware of that point; it has been raised with me, and I am working on it with the Minister for Digital and Culture to improve the situation. I hope that the hon. Lady agrees that there has been progress in that area, but I fully take the point that we always need to do more. If she will forgive me, I will make some progress now, because I am aware that many right hon. and hon. Members want to contribute to the debate.

When it comes to broadband coverage, we are ahead of our major European competitors. In 2015, the UK maintained its No. 1 position for the widest access to superfast broadband, ahead of Germany, France, Italy and Spain. That connectivity drives business. Edinburgh, for example, has a thriving FinTech sector; Cardiff and Swansea have a particular specialism in cyber-security; Belfast’s strengths include app and software development; and Manchester boasts a world-class digital media cluster. The Government are supporting and enabling that, by providing funding through Tech City and supporting businesses through UK Trade & Investment.

Most fundamentally, we are ensuring that our citizens have the skills to keep the UK ahead. We were one of the first countries in the world to put computer coding in the national curriculum, and we are focusing on digital skills for adults, so that no one is left behind. The House may be interested to know that last year the most popular A-level was mathematics, and I am extremely pleased to hear that it is doing so well in the A-level stakes.

The Government are also digitally transforming. Our Government Digital Service has made us one of the world’s first “digital by default” countries—a model that has been copied around the globe. We are aggressively modernising the way in which the Government interact with citizens. Managing information well brings benefits, such as allowing drivers to share their licence information with insurers and car hire companies, which makes transactions faster. There is a new system to ensure that the electoral roll tallies with benefits data to stamp out fraud, and there are automatic fuel discounts for vulnerable pensioners.