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Digital Switchover

Volume 456: debated on Monday 29 January 2007

3. How many people she expects to receive targeted assistance on digital switchover; what she expects the cost to be; and if she will make a statement. (111451)

We estimate that 7.1 million UK households will qualify for assistance from the scheme and that around 4.7 million of those will use the scheme. The cost of the scheme over its lifetime will be in the region of £600 million.

The Government’s estimate of the cost of assistance with digital switchover has increased from £250 million to £600 million. Will the Minister assure the House not only that the vulnerable in my constituency will get the help that they need, but that licence fee payers will not have to foot the bill if the cost continues to spiral?

Despite an intensive advertising campaign and the launch of a dedicated website, a recent survey shows that three in five adults in the United Kingdom believe that the Government have provided no information, or inadequate information, to describe why and how the digital switchover will take place. Fewer than one in five people even know when their region is scheduled for transfer. Will effort be intensified to tackle that situation?

My hon. Friend makes an important contribution, but it might be helpful if I set out some facts. Three quarters of homes in the UK already have at least one digital television and have thus effectively gone digital. Awareness is now running at about 80 per cent. I can tell the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) that the figure for Grampian in Scotland is running at 87 per cent. One should thus dispute some of the figures that my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) cited. However, we are not complacent, which is why £200 million has been set aside for a communications campaign by Digital UK to ensure that no one is left behind.