Page last updated at 22:10 GMT, Monday, 26 March 2012 23:10 UK

Minister: UK is 'top internet economy'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has described the UK as the "top internet economy in the G20" during a Budget debate which focused on the creative industries and technology.

Opening the debate on 26 March 2012, Mr Vaizey said three quarters of the population of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have access to high-speed broadband.

The minister said the government's investment of £530m in rural broadband would enable coverage to reach 90% of the country by 2015.

Mr Vaizey compared the UK favourably to Morocco, where only 10% of the population had access.

This prompted Labour MP Ann McGuire to suggest that residents of the village of Balquhidder in her Stirling constituency might be better off living in Morocco, as they still had dial-up internet provision.

Mr Vaizey said the government's investment aimed to eliminate such problems.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman described "a Budget built on economic failure" and mocked the coalition's stated aim to govern in the national interest.

"How can it be in the national interest to fail on jobs, fail on growth and fail on fairness?" she asked.

She argued that it was the last Labour government which introduced tax breaks for creative industries, but Mr Vaizey said that Labour could not take the credit for current successes.

Later, former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling spoke about the 50p tax rate, which he introduced when in office.

He said he had always viewed the tax rate as "temporary" and hadn't wanted to introduce it, but that he thought it was right that people who had done well in the previous period of growth "should bear their fair share".

The 50p rate is to be reduced to 45p in 2013 but Mr Darling said that he would not have cut the rate while the lower paid were struggling.

Chancellor George Osborne used his third Budget to announce that the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had revised up UK growth forecast for 2012 to 0.8% - from 0.7%.

It also forecasted unemployment to peak this year at 8.7% before falling each year to 6.3% by 2016-17.

In an attempt to stimulate businesses, corporation tax will be cut to 24% from April, falling to 22% by 2014.

The government is also considering enterprise loans for young people to start their own business.


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