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Gigabit Broadband

Volume 700: debated on Thursday 16 September 2021

As the current broadband Minister I can say that, as Members will have seen, across the country gigabit broadband is now at 47%, up from just 10% in November 2019. This Government will leave no stone unturned to get that number as high as possible as quickly as possible.

May I, too, offer my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Secretary of State on her very recent promotion?

I thank the Minister for his response. Residents of the newly built Parc Derwen estate in my Bridgend constituency, and others across the UK, have found themselves tied to disagreeable fibre providers and unable to seek competitive quotes due to restrictions placed on them by developers as they are laying infrastructure. What will my hon. Friend do to ensure a competitive market as we roll out gigabit broadband?

My hon. Friend is right that competition is a crucial part of a functioning broadband market. FibreNest, the company that he refers to, says that it is willing to let other providers use its networks, and it is a commercial decision for the company. It is important that all the right steps are taken to ensure that that promise becomes a reality, and the Government will work with him and the company to ensure that it does so.

It is very good to see my hon. Friend in his place at the Dispatch Box. As a rural constituency, Montgomeryshire is very reliant on the roll-out of Project Gigabit, which I welcome very much. Not only is that integral to increased speeds, but the backbone of that fibre network is key to our levelling-up ambitions. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need to deliver it at pace?

My hon. Friend is very kind; I hope that is not the kiss of death. He is right that, in areas such as Wales in particular, the power of levelling up through digital infrastructure is key. We have recently made positive announcements with the Welsh Government. We look forward to making more, and I know that Montgomeryshire will be a key part of delivering that mission.

I congratulate the Minister on retaining his position and welcome the new Secretary of State to hers. The Minister’s is a wide-ranging and critical role, not least because we need our broadband. Parliament, our businesses, our students, our economy and our social lives depend on it—but it is another broken promise. Full fibre by 2025 was the Prime Minister’s pledge, and the 2020 Budget set aside £5 billion to deliver it. Will the Minister confirm that only £1.2 billion of that £5 billion is planned to be spent by 2025 and that, far from full fibre, we will not even get affordable broadband? According to Ofcom, more than 2 million households find it hard to afford broadband, yet the Government are slashing broadband price controls, slashing the broadband budget, slashing universal credit support, and slashing gigabit targets. When will we get the broadband we need?

I enjoyed the hon. Lady’s speech, Mr Speaker. The fact remains that this is a £5 billion commitment to—

Order. I just say gently to the Minister that I make the judgment call. He is very kind to offer his assistance, but I will let him know when I need it.

Absolutely, Mr Speaker.

The fact remains that this is a £5 billion commitment to getting as close to 100% broadband across this country as fast as we possibly can. The only barrier to doing that is the speed with which we can dig up the roads and lay the cables. This Government will do every single thing we can to make sure that every single barrier is removed in order to spend every penny of that £5 billion as quickly as we possibly can.