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Superfast Broadband

Volume 542: debated on Thursday 22 March 2012

We have now approved the local broadband plans for Durham, Warwickshire, Northumberland and Staffordshire project areas, which means that 24 of the 45 plans received by the 29 February deadline have been approved; that is more than half. All submitted plans, including Greater Manchester’s, will be approved by the end of April 2012.

We anticipate that the contract for the broadband delivery framework will be signed with suppliers in mid-April and expect the first three projects to enter procurement using the framework immediately following the contract’s being signed. We have set a target for all broadband procurements to be completed by the end of 2012.

Will there be any scope for transferring funds from the moneys announced for Greater Manchester —the city region—to fill in the gaps in rural broadband?

I will happily discuss that issue with my hon. Friend. I take his point—unlike the Opposition, he welcomes the investment in Greater Manchester.

The announcement last August also indicated a figure of almost £70 million to be used in Scotland. What contact, if any, does the Minister have with the Scottish Government about how services are being developed north of the border?

I have regular contact with the Scottish Government, who have welcomed the funding and are putting in their own funding to support broadband roll-out in Scotland.

It was once said that the entire empire hung by Lancashire’s thread. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Lancashire county council on prioritising superfast broadband? The entire county now hangs from its fibre optic cable.

I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Lancashire on its superfast broadband. It is a very innovative and go-ahead authority, which has also been particularly pioneering in libraries.