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Technology Sector

Volume 734: debated on Tuesday 20 June 2023

I have set out our national ambition to be the world’s next silicon valley. We are making good progress; last year we were ranked the world’s third largest technology market after the United States and China.

Ultimate Battery in Thurcroft in Rother Valley is developing groundbreaking battery technologies and is on track to create 500 new jobs by 2025. What help can the Department give me and my constituents to help burgeoning businesses such as Ultimate Battery, to make Rother Valley and other places across the north technology hubs?

I thank my hon. Friend for his support for this really important sector in Rother Valley. We have a number of schemes, including £541 million of funding available in the Faraday battery challenge. We also have the £1 billion automotive transformation fund. As a result of the efforts that he and many others have made, we now get 40% of our electricity from renewable sources—the second highest in Europe—and much more progress is to come.

I recently convened a roundtable in my constituency with the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman) and a number of science and tech businesses. Their No. 1 question was what fiscal support was available for their sector. I am aware that there are numerous schemes, grants and tax relief, but it was notable that they were not well understood by the businesses, and I could not find them published anywhere on the new Department’s website. Could my right hon. Friend put together and publish a package of all the support available to investors and innovators, and how it can be applied for, to maximise the potential of this vital new frontier in west Berkshire and beyond?

That is a fair point. I thank my hon. Friend for the fact that Newbury is a hotbed of technology businesses, with Roc Technologies, Stryker, Edwards Lifesciences and a range of other businesses that she gives a lot of support to. I will write to her listing all those things and I will make sure that it is available on the website of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

The tech sector in rural Cumbria depends on reliable broadband. Communities in Warcop, Sandford, Coupland Beck, Blea Tarn and Ormside in Westmorland have signed up to the community interest company and volunteer group B4RN to provide a gigabit connection for just £33 a month, but the communities have been suddenly designated a low priority area, which means that their vouchers have been removed, putting the whole project at risk. Will the Chancellor commit to supporting those communities, residents and businesses to ensure that they get the vouchers that they were initially promised?

I will happily look into what has happened. We strongly support all rural areas having access to gigabyte broadband, as an important part of our policy. We have made a lot of progress on that. I will look into detail of what is happening in the hon. Gentleman’s area and get back to him.