The Government announced support in principle for the mobile network operators shared rural network programme, which will see those operators collectively increase 4G mobile coverage throughout the UK to 95% by 2025. Although the SRN is not yet a done deal, the Prime Minister has made improvements to rural mobile coverage a key part of his “first 100 days” pledge.
I’m being intervened on by the Sports Minister!
The £1 billion shared rural network, 50% of which is paid for by the taxpayer, has the support of just about every rural parliamentarian in this place, but apparently it is at risk because BT is increasing its charges to other operators. What can the Minister do to bring BT back to the table and ensure that the deal goes through?
I am sorry there is a dispute about the important matter of the score at Wrexham. To return to my hon. Friend’s substantive point, I pay tribute to his work on behalf of so many rural MPs on this important issue, and I will continue to work with the sector to ensure that the shared rural network is delivered. It would be inappropriate to comment on the detail of commercial negotiations, but if mobile network operators are unable to reach an agreement for any reason—I very much hope they will be able to—we will continue to explore all possible options, including rural roaming.
What discussions have been held with the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that the roll-out of the rural network programme—that began in this place, and is now continued by the Assembly, which is operating again—is on a par with the rest of the United Kingdom?
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that when we talk about “levelling up”, it is vital that we bring all parts of the United Kingdom with us. I have already been to Northern Ireland to talk about this and other issues, not least the roll-out of the fibre network in Dundrum, which was impressive. We will continue those conversations to ensure that every aspect of the United Kingdom gets the broadband and mobile coverage it deserves.