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Telecommunications: Rural Areas

Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2018

6. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on improving telecommunications in rural Scotland. (906302)

May I first welcome my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright) to his role as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and thank his predecessor for his energy and the interest that he showed in Scotland? I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues regarding a wide range of issues relating to Scotland and look forward to working closely with the new Secretary of State on this issue.

The Secretary of State will be aware that mobile reception in my constituency is variable, to say the very least. The Home Office has given a company called EE a large amount of money to install infrastructure. Will the Secretary of State help other providers to access this infrastructure?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue for rural Scotland; it is also very important in my own Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale constituency. I will give him that undertaking.

Last month, the then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport warned that Scotland was due to miss its target of connecting every business and home in Scotland with superfast broadband. Does the Secretary of State for Scotland agree that the SNP is letting down rural areas such as my constituency of Angus?

My hon. Friend has been a powerful advocate for improved broadband in rural Scotland. Indeed, she is correct that the Scottish Government have let Scotland down on this issue.

According to thinkbroadband, 93.4% of premises in Scotland now have access to superfast broadband, which compares with 95% in the UK. This has been done with some of the most challenging geography in the whole of Europe, with some £580 million of Scottish Government money being put into the last 5%. Will the Secretary of State now congratulate the Scottish Government on achieving this and thank them for investing in a reserved area, which is his responsibility?

Rather than reading out Scottish Government press releases, the hon. Gentleman should be standing up for his constituents and people across rural Scotland who get a poor deal on broadband, which is primarily due to the ineffectiveness of the Scottish Government.