Government: Communications Minister Always Meant To Go

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The man behind the Digital Briain report, Lord Carter, didn’t quit says government, leaving after the publication of the document was always part of the plan

Rather than being yet another high-profile name to step down from Gordon Brown’s government, it will always intended that Lord Carter would leave after the completion of his Digital Britain report according to a government statement.

In a joint statement from the Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills and Culture Media and Sport released late last week, the government painted Carter’s decision to step down following the publication of his Digital Britain report tomorrow as all part of an agreed plan.

“We can confirm that he will step down at summer recess with the completion of his work, as originally intended and with the full agreement of the Prime Minister,” the statement read. “The Prime Minister appointed Stephen Carter as Communications Minister with the specific task of commissioning and producing the Digital Britain report and its follow-up recommendations. This was agreed at the time.”

There has been some confusion over the publication date of the Digital Britain report and whether the presentation to the Cabinet tomorrow constitutes publication or whether the report has actually been delayed a week from the 16 June publication date previously stated by government.

“Lord Carter will present his report to Cabinet on Tuesday before it is published later next week. He will then put in place a detailed implementation plan before the summer recess,” the government stated.

The Digital Britain Report is a wide-ranging document that is intended to lay-out how the government intends to improve broadband access across the UK, and respond to issues such as file-sharing and online privacy.

According to reports, Lord Carter could be being lined up to take over from Michael Grade as head of ITV when he leaves government. His departure follows the resignation of several government minsters including Minister For Digital Engagement Tom Watson who stepped down amid the recent reshuffle after citing pressure on his “young family”.

Watson was named by the Telegraph in its ministerial expenses reporting and he also sued the publishers of The Mail On Sunday for allegations surrounding government press adviser Damian McBride.

Some of Watson’s role involved trying to improve how well the government engages with the populace via the Internet – duties that will now be handled by several recent government appointments in the shape of web pioneer Sir Tim Berners Lee, Andrew Stott – recently appointed director of Digital Engagement at the Cabinet Office, and Lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox hired as a digital champion.

In a statement released this week the Central Office Of Information (COI) announced that Internet auditing company ABCe has been appointed to carry out a third party audit of government websites.

The results are expected in June 2010, with the government sites assessed according to a “consistent set of measurements for unique users/browsers, page impressions, visits and durations of time spent”. “These industry-agreed standards will, for the first time, accurately assess how much central government sites are being used,” the COI stated.

According to the COI, the audit has been planned partly in response to calls from the Public Accounts Committee for reliable data on the volume and use of central government web sites.

“We are determined to drive up the quality of government websites to ensure they offer excellent value for money for the taxpayer, and a better user experience,” said COI board director for Interactive Services Alex Butler. “COI has a key role to play in ensuring government can connect effectively with citizens and business online.”