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Broadband: Scotland

Volume 633: debated on Thursday 21 December 2017

Merry Christmas to you, Mr Speaker, and a happy Christmas to friends across the House, including the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury). In the past we decided to deliver broadband in Scotland through the Scottish Government. We provided additional funding in February 2014 to support further roll-out, but the Scottish Government have only just begun the procurement process using the funding and are not expecting to have an agreed contract until the end of next year—over three years behind Wales, England and Northern Ireland. In future, therefore, the Government will implement the new full fibre programme and the 5G programme directly with local authorities to ensure efficient delivery.

I thank the Minister for his response and for his recent visit to my constituency. Given the Ofcom “Connected nations” report, which describes the situation he has summarised—the Scottish Government have not even started the second phase of delivery—will he confirm that his Department will work directly with local councils in Scotland to implement future phases of broadband roll-out?

Scottish Tory Back Benchers have agreed that clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is flawed and amounts to a power grab. Is the situation with broadband not the same, and is it not time that the Minister worked with the Scottish Government instead of trying to bypass them?

We have tried to work with the Scottish Government for years, but when the First Minister first took my hand on a cold Christmas eve, she promised me broadband was waiting for me. It is three years later and we are still waiting for the Scottish Government to get on with it.

My constituency is on the southern side of the border, which is just a line on the map as far as they are concerned. North Northumberland is still struggling to get the broadband it needs so that my many small villages are not cut off. Will the Minister ensure that, in 2018, we will see progress there?

Yes, absolutely, and increasingly we need to ensure that the delivery works on both sides of the border. Obviously, what matters is getting the roll-out of superfast broadband to everybody in the borders and throughout the country. No matter where the administrative boundaries are, what matters is getting broadband connections to people.

In this the season of good will, will the Minister join me in congratulating the Scottish Government following last week’s announcement that, despite it being a reserved matter, they are to invest £600 million in rolling out 30 megabit superfast broadband across Scotland, with priority given to rural Scotland, thereby making Scotland a truly world-class digital nation by 2021?

I will certainly join the hon. Gentleman in wishing a merry Christmas to everybody in the Scottish National party and the SNP Government in Scotland. I am delighted that, finally, three and a half years after being granted the money, they have got on with the start of the procurement, but it will take another year for the second phase of the roll-out to get going. He, and more importantly his constituents, will understand why we have grown tired of waiting for the Scottish Government and are getting on with delivering directly through local councils in Scotland in future.