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House of Commons Hansard
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15 March 2016
Volume 607
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4. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on improving access to broadband for businesses. [904088]

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I call Minister Ed Vaizey.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for that lovely introduction. As you have been so kind and welcoming to me, I would like to tell you that 4 million homes now have superfast broadband. I have regular discussions with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to maintain and secure the UK’s place as a world leader in broadband.

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I am glad that the Minister thinks it is lovely simply to have his name announced.

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Although I welcome the progress the Government are making on rolling out broadband, it is clear that many businesses are not happy with the service that they are receiving from BT. What discussions is my hon. Friend having with BT to ensure that it is delivering for businesses across the country and specifically in Basildon and Thurrock?

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I do not want to labour the point, Mr Speaker, but I do not think you understand fully the effect your words have on me—you have absolutely made my day. However, in answer to the question, let me say that the Secretary of State recently announced that we will have a review of business broadband, because we do understand how important broadband is for businesses. Ofcom has also recently published its digital communications review, which will impose minimum quality requirements on Openreach that are much tougher than currently exist.

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The Government claim to champion the critical contribution that small businesses make to our economy, but Ofcom’s latest figures, which the Minister did not mention, show that half of small businesses in business parks cannot get 10 megabits of broadband, a quarter cannot get 5 megabits and one in 10 cannot even get 2 megabits. My local chamber of commerce tells me of businesses where staff have to go home if they want to send an email. Responding to me in a debate last week, the Minister said that the Government’s broadband roll-out had been “an unadulterated success”. If that is success, what would failure look like?

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Failure—[Interruption.] As usual, my hon. Friends have anticipated my answer: there, on the Labour Benches, is the picture of failure. We have had to write off £50 million from the failed Labour scheme to deliver broadband in South Yorkshire. If a Labour Government had been elected, they would be two years behind us in the roll-out of superfast broadband; they had a target of 2017 to get to 90%—we have already reached it.