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High-speed Broadband

Volume 547: debated on Thursday 5 July 2012

7. What steps she is taking to ensure rural areas have access to reliable and high-speed broadband. (115220)

DEFRA is working with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Broadband Delivery UK to meet our target to have the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015. The Government’s £530 million rural broadband investment will provide 90% of premises with superfast broadband, and everyone else with standard broadband of at least 2 megabits per second. The Government’s £20 million rural community broadband fund provides grant support to enable communities on that basic 2 megabit speed to increase it for the last 10% of people in hard-to-reach locations.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. High-speed internet access is essential for rural areas to take part in a growing digital economy. When will my constituents, and people in greater Cheshire, see reliable high-speed broadband rolled out for them to access?

I can give my hon. Friend some good news. DCMS has approved all the local broadband plans covering north-west England, and Broadband Delivery UK has allocated £3.24 million to the plan for Cheshire. BT and Fujitsu have now signed the delivery framework, and the first projects to use it have commenced procurement. Cheshire’s will be among the group of projects to commence procurement in October.

Given that so much Scottish broadband funding is UK-provided, although the Scottish Government provide the delivery, what follow-through does the Minister’s Department have with Edinburgh once that funding is allocated? From reading the publicity, if not propaganda, north of the border, people would think it was all Scottish Government funding, which it manifestly is not.

As my right hon. Friend suggests, of course not all the funding is from the Scottish Government. As I have just described, the lion’s share is from the UK Government. As he well knows, it is not unusual for such claims to be made in Scotland, and we all have a responsibility to ensure that the Scottish people know the full facts. The £530 million that I mentioned is to roll out superfast broadband to 90% of the population of the whole UK, and as I have said, there are measures to address the other 10%. That is all a UK policy.