HC Deb 20 April 2004 vol 420 cc151-2
22. David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab)

What assessment he has made of how the recently launched home computing initiative will help to reduce the digital divide. [166190]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Alexander)

Employer-provided home computing initiatives make owning a computer more accessible for many people. Such schemes reduce the costs of acquiring a computer by up to 40 per cent., drive up levels of internet access and use, and improve IT skills as a result.

David Hamilton

My hon. Friend is well aware that I represent a former mining area. Although I welcome the fact that we are down to 2.5 per cent. unemployment in the area, that camouflages a large number of people who have been long-term sick and long-term unemployed. What access will those people have? What can we do to give them free or low-cost digital access? Is any help available for that?

Mr. Alexander

My hon. Friend makes an important point. From his work in Midlothian I know of his keenness to tackle long-term unemployment. I know he shares with me pride in the fact that almost 1.75 million more jobs have been created since 1997. On the specific point that he raises concerning internet access in Midlothian, I shall be happy to take the matter up with the Scottish Executive Minister.

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