Skip to main content

Digital Infrastructure Investment

Volume 631: debated on Thursday 16 November 2017

5. What progress her Department has made on digital infrastructure investment for the next generation of mobile and broadband communications. (901881)

As well as the current generation of technologies, we have provided more than £1 billion of funding to support the next generation of digital infrastructure, including investment in full-fibre networks and 5G testbeds, so that we are ready to ensure that we are ahead of the pack as 5G is developed.

Given the number of companies in and around Cambridge that specialise in technological innovation, the growth of agritech in east Cambridgeshire and the rural nature of Cambridgeshire as a whole, does the Minister think that South East Cambridgeshire would be an excellent place to hold some of the 5G trials?

My hon. and learned Friend has been assiduous in putting the case for Cambridgeshire, because of the combination of amazing high-tech growth in Cambridge itself and its rural hinterland, as an area where we can really test these technologies. I look forward to working with her and with Connecting Cambridgeshire to see whether we can make that happen.

As well as fibre and base stations, data is a key part of digital infrastructure. The Minister claims that his Data Protection Bill will put people in control of their own data, but it systematically strips various groups, including immigrants, of any control. What is he doing to ensure that people can actually control their own data?

I am slightly surprised by the question, because we have introduced the Data Protection Bill, which is currently in the other place, to give people much more control and consent over their data and to ensure that in the UK we have a system that supports the use of data in a modern way while strengthening privacy. No doubt we will have a debate when the Bill comes to this House, but it is great that the Bill has cross-party support.

Does the Minister agree that it is vital to invest in digital infrastructure if we are to raise productivity, particularly in rural areas like Gordon in northern Scotland?

Absolutely. Not only are we ensuring that we roll out the current generation of technology—we are pushing the Scottish Government to deliver on that—but for the next generation of technology we will deliver directly to local authorities in Scotland, rather than going through the Scottish Government, because we want to make sure that Scotland does not get left behind, as it has this time round.

The Minister will be aware that some 63,000 premises in Northern Ireland cannot get a download speed of 10 megabits per second, and 94% of those premises are located in rural areas. Through our confidence and supply agreement with the Government, we secured an extra £150 million for broadband. Can the Minister indicate what discussions have taken place with the Assembly to ensure that the roll-out continues?

We have been putting a lot of work into trying to ensure that we get a faster roll-out in Northern Ireland, and I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to talk about the details. The passing of the Northern Ireland Budget Bill this week will help to deliver that, and it will help to ensure that we have the structures in place. I am determined to make sure that Northern Ireland continues to get connected.