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Superfast Broadband

Volume 631: debated on Thursday 16 November 2017

1. What recent progress her Department has made on reaching the Government’s superfast broadband target for the end of 2017. (901877)

14. What recent progress her Department has made on reaching the Government’s superfast broadband target for the end of 2017. (901894)

Thank you, Mr Speaker; the length of the name of the Department now makes it sound like a land grab.

Over 94% of UK homes and businesses can now access superfast broadband and we are on track to reach 95% by the end of the year. Superfast broadband coverage will extend beyond that to at least another 2% of premises. For those not covered by superfast broadband, we will ensure universal broadband coverage of at least 10 megabits.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, and I am delighted that Aberdeen is one of six pilot areas for superfast reliable full-fibre broadband, which can offer speeds as high as 1 gigabit. However, at a time when the Scottish Government’s slow roll-out of superfast broadband has left my constituency with one of the worst broadband speeds in the UK for an urban constituency—as well as the city being Europe’s energy capital—does the Secretary of State share my belief that this UK Government investment is vital to boosting connectivity in Aberdeen?

I am disappointed to hear about the superfast coverage in my hon. Friend’s constituency, because this Government have put the resources behind the superfast programme, but we are obviously reliant on local authorities, and, in the case of Scotland, the Scottish Government, to deliver the superfast programme. But we have always said that superfast gives good connectivity to as many people as possible as quickly as possible, but full fibre is the future, and the fact that Aberdeen is in the pilot is good news for his constituents.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for her answer. People and businesses in my constituency are hungry for full-fibre broadband; when will they get it?

We are determined to make sure that all businesses and people living in my hon. Friend’s constituency are able to access the broadband speeds they need to ensure they can be part of the digital revolution in our economy. I assure my hon. Friend that we will deliver full fibre to his constituency as soon as practicable.

Virgin Media has recognised that Wrexham is a great place to invest and is building new infrastructure in Wrexham. What can the Secretary of State do to help all the Conservative Members who ceaselessly complain about this Government’s performance on superfast broadband, and ensure they have the benefits that Wrexham is now having?

It is a shame that the hon. Gentleman takes that approach. In 2012 only 2% of premises in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson), for example, had access to superfast broadband, but the figure is now 94%, thanks to the actions of this Government. We know that we need to continue working on this, because it is important that we get the right access for people, and I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman’s constituency has such good broadband access.

Ceredigion has the dubious accolade of being in the bottom 10 UK constituencies for broadband provision. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Welsh Government to ensure that Wales, and in particular its rural areas, are not left behind and lose out on superfast broadband?

My Department speaks regularly to the Welsh Government, who, as with the Scottish Government in Scotland, have responsibility for delivering superfast broadband across Wales. They will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s comments, and I am sure they will act upon them.

I am pleased to hear the Secretary of State talk about superfast broadband coverage. Superfast Essex will provide coverage for 95% of the county, but what is being done to provide access to the 5% of residents in Essex, many of whom live in rural areas in my constituency, who desperately require improved connectivity?

I am very pleased that Superfast Essex will reach 95%, and, as I said in my opening remarks, the superfast programme does not end at the end of 2017; we expect a further 2% of premises to be covered by superfast under the programme. I also urge my hon. Friend and her constituency neighbours in Essex to encourage take-up of superfast broadband, because, as people take up access to it, money then comes back into the system to connect even more premises to superfast broadband.

Will the Secretary of State explain why the UK Government’s contribution to the Scottish Government’s broadband roll-out project is just £21 million, an amount less than that awarded to Devon and Somerset? Will she join me in applauding the scale of the Scottish Government’s ambition to achieve 30 megabits per second for every Scottish household? Does she not think that the people of England deserve that level of ambition from their Government?

This is about delivery of superfast broadband, not just ambition, and I am afraid that the Scottish Government are behind on every single measure compared with other areas—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman talks about money, money, money but the important point is that this is about delivery. Other local authorities and areas have been able to deliver, and I hope that the Scottish Government will take note.