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Broadband tax to be put into Financial Bill

Alistair Darling confirmed the 50 pence broadband tax would be brought into a bill but he kept quiet on cutting the NHS IT scheme.

Alistair Darling with Gordon Brown

Alistair Darling has confirmed the 50 pence broadband tax will be drafted into a bill, during his pre-budget report presentation to the House of Commons today.

The Chancellor spoke of how the government had already helped extend the broadband network into more remote communities but that there was still a need to invest into our digital infrastructure, which in turn could create more jobs.

In the speech, he said: "We now want to go further, so we can provide the next generation of super-fast broadband to 90 per cent of the population by the end of 2017."

"This will be funded through a duty of 50 pence a month on landlines which will be included in the Finance Bill."

However, shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said back in October that if the Conservatives were to get in power at the next general election they would scrap such a tax.

Darling hinted to the BBC this week that the NHS IT scheme was set for the chop during his pre-budget speech as it was "not essential to the front line."

However, he only briefly mentioned the need for "cutting back on the scope of major IT projects" rather than naming it specifically.

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Andy Burnham defended the need for the NHS IT scheme.

During a debate in the commons, he said: "Put simply, the programme is a key part of delivering modern, safe, joined-up healthcare. It is supporting the on-going reform of the NHS by giving choice and convenience to patients. The NHS could not function without it."

Burnham did concede that during tough economic times it was "right to look again at efficiencies and Value For Money on all big projects," and that is what the Chancellor has asked him to do in his department.

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