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Financial Inclusion

Volume 502: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009

DEFRA works hard across Government to ensure that all Departments take account of specific rural needs in their policies. Indeed, I met with my colleague in the Department for Work and Pensions only last month specifically to discuss rural issues.

Picking up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), who has pinched yet another question of mine—the problem is that we both come from the same stable—may I reiterate that approximately 200,000 people living in rural England do not have access to broadband facilities? Would that not aid financial inclusion as it provides access to valuable information, online banking, credit union services and other such services?

Perhaps the hon. Lady should have some more interesting pillow talk than it appears she is having—[Laughter.] She is right: digital communications are crucial in rural areas as well as in urban areas. They make a big difference not least in access to banking and other important services and facilities. We are working hard on that issue and putting extra resources into it, including moneys from heads for which I have specific responsibility.