Digital Economy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 13th September 2016.

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Photo of Calum Kerr Calum Kerr Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Digital) 1:46 pm, 13th September 2016

I welcome the opportunity to speak about such an important Bill, which contains several measures that SNP Members welcome. We welcome long overdue changes in provisions such as the electronic communications code, moves towards greater consumer protections, and steps that are designed to promote more connectivity. However, I know I am not alone in thinking that the Bill’s title is a bit of a misnomer. At a time when the British economy, with its woeful record on productivity, is crying out for a vision to ride the wave of technological change, we have a Bill that is somewhat cobbled together, and is vague and unambitious. Although it contains several welcome measures, it offers little in the way of direction or strategy. The Conservative manifesto pledged to make the United Kingdom a world leader in digital provision—a place where technology would ceaselessly transform the economy, society and government. I ask all Members to consider whether the Bill really lives up to that vision.

We really should contemplate the remarkable next phase of the information revolution. Phenomenal access speeds through fibre and 5G will allow us to realise the potential that is the “internet of things”. If we get this right and make the most of these opportunities, technology truly can power our economy. In Scotland, the moves that we are making on that front are strong and unequivocal. The SNP is committed to a manifesto pledge of 100% superfast connectivity. We do not see any reason why connectivity—which is of even greater significance in a country like Scotland, which has a low population density—should be determined on the basis of whether people live in rural or urban areas.