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Broadband: Rural Areas

Volume 635: debated on Wednesday 31 January 2018

4. What progress has been made on the roll-out of high-speed broadband in rural Wales; and if he will make a statement. (903564)

Superfast broadband is now available to more than 19 out of 20 UK homes and businesses, including 95% of premises in Wales. That underlines the progress made in recent years thanks to our investment of £69 million in Wales, plus an additional £56 million gainshare to be reinvested.

That investment is working. In Gwynedd, for example, it was previously only possible to get a download speed of 0.9 megabits per second. In Merionethshire, Openreach has now given fibre to the home that delivers at least 75 megabits per second. That is great, but what can the Government do to provide a legal obligation for everyone to have a right to broadband?

My hon. Friend is quite right to highlight the importance of good connectivity through broadband, particularly in our rural areas, if we are to maximise the economic benefits. We have decided that regulation is the best way to ensure that everyone in the UK has a decent broadband connection. A regulatory universal service obligation will give everyone in the UK access to speeds of at least 10 megabits per second by 2020.

May I genuinely welcome the Anglesey-born Under-Secretary to his place? The last Anglesey-born Tory Minister was Sir Wyn Roberts, so he has very big shoes to fill. The success of the broadband roll-out in Wales is due to the partnership between the European Union, Government here in Westminster and Government in Wales, working with BT. Will the Minister assure us that in 2020 there will not be a cliff edge and that we will have transitional money from Europe, so that we can roll out to 100%?

I am grateful to have such a welcome from someone I have known for many years. I am very grateful. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right.

No, actually I was a member of the Young Conservatives then. We are determined to roll out broadband and to achieve the 2020 target. It will be incumbent on us, as the UK Government, to work with the Welsh Government to ensure that broadband is rolled out to every part.

Ceredigion has among the slowest broadband speeds in the UK. Despite that, Ceredigion, and indeed the whole of Wales, was left out of the UK Government programme to provide full fibre broadband to six areas across England and Scotland. Will the Minister confirm that representations were made to his Government to ensure that Wales was included in that programme? What explanation was he given for its omission?

Let us not forget that the roll-out of broadband is the responsibility of the Welsh Government. As the hon. Gentleman will know, because we have already had a conversation about this, this could form an important part of the mid-Wales growth deal. That will be incredibly important in making a successful growth deal for the area.

For the households in Pembrokeshire in my constituency that have been told they cannot get broadband, the roll-out coverage is not 95%; it is zero. Will the Minister provide assurance that he will keep working with colleagues in the UK Government and Welsh Government to see that we connect up the whole of Wales?

I absolutely accept that we have to ensure that broadband is rolled out to every part of Wales. Pembrokeshire is equally important, and my right hon. Friend is a big champion of his constituency and area. I am a little bit disappointed in the Welsh Government’s roll-out priorities, but we will continue to work to ensure that we deliver the roll-out that we have promised and envisaged.