Digital Economy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:17 pm on 13th September 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Policy) 6:17 pm, 13th September 2016

They say that success has many fathers, and I hope that is true of the Bill because this debate has been a veritable custody battle. My right hon. Friend Mr Whittingdale, whose name appears first on the back of the Bill, gave a second opening speech to explain where much of it has come from. My right hon. Friend the Member for Didcot—[Hon. Members: “Wantage.”]—made a brilliant speech. I think of my right hon. Friend Mr Vaizey as the Member for Didcot because of that great big power station, which he so resembles; sadly, it has now fallen down. He developed much of the detail of the Bill and deserves enormous credit for his work.

Between us, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, who, with me, will take the data measures through the Committee, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who we could say is the mother of the Bill, and I—I am honoured and privileged to be the Bill Minister—all claim credit for parts of the Bill. It has been a team effort, and a huge amount of work over several years has gone into bringing the Bill to this point. I want to thank all the Ministers and the many officials and stakeholders who have been involved in its development.

This has been an excellent debate, with insightful and thought-provoking contributions from all sides of the House. We have heard about the increasing importance of digital technology and infrastructure to our constituents and the economy. I am glad that there seems to be a consensus about the importance of the subject. We have heard some impassioned pleas to ensure that we protect the vulnerable, and the Bill takes steps to do so.

Technology is transforming the world in which we live—our homes, work and daily lives—and the Bill seeks to make the benefits of those transformations as big as possible while mitigating some of the inevitable costs. We need to ensure that our laws and infrastructure keep pace with this great change. We must tackle the problems the change brings and seize on the opportunities.

We have the best superfast broadband coverage and highest take-up of all major European nations, but we want us to have more. Although nine out of every 10 homes and businesses can now access superfast speeds, and we are on track to hit the target of 95% coverage by 2017, we want high-speed broadband for all. The Bill takes the next step, with the universal service obligation. In the same way, as we deliver through infrastructure the internet that enriches our lives, we will also take steps to protect children from online pornography, addressing harms highlighted by many in the Chamber.

Likewise, the Government Digital Service has made the UK Government one of the first digital-by-default states, in a model replicated the world over, but we can do more. The Bill will strengthen how we use Government data to deliver better public services.