Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 12:56 UK

Broadband tax 'to be made law'

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News

Elderly lady on phone
Anyone with a fixed line telephone will have to pay the 50p tax

A controversial broadband tax should be law before the next election, according to Minister for Digital Britain Stephen Timms.

The 50 pence a month tax will apply to everyone with a fixed line telephone.

Speaking at a debate in London, Mr Timms said the tax will be presented to parliament as part of the Finance Bill.

But the Tory MP John Whittingdale said the tax, which could raise up to £175m a year to fund high speed networks, would be opposed by the Conservatives.

"I'm confident the Conservative party will oppose it. I object to it on the basis that it is another tax and is aimed at people who are using old technology," said Mr Whittingdale, who is also chair of the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) select committee.

Speaking at a debate organised by The BCS Chartered Institute for IT (formerly the British Computer Society), Mr Timms reiterated the government's commitment to the levy and the other recommendations of Lord Carter's Digital Britain report.

"We want to make high speed networks nationally available. The next-generation fund will help that and we will legislate for it this side of a general election," he said.

No derailment

There had been speculation that it would be shelved because of a convention that any tax introduced shortly before an election should have cross-party support
Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC Technology correspondent

He told BBC News that the other recommendations of the Digital Britain report would "be built on" in the Digital Economy Bill, which will be presented to parliament in November.

There have been concerns in recent months that the Digital Britain report, which was unveiled in June, has been derailed.

Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has intervened to beef up the government policy on illegal file-sharing, which could include removing persistent offenders from the net.

Mr Timms denied the report had been sidelined.

"Nothing has been derailed. It is full steam ahead," he told BBC News.

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