Reverend Martin Smyth (Belfast South, UUP)
I listened carefully to the speech of Rosemary McKenna. I am not convinced that the Bill is perfect, however: that is one reason why it must have a Committee stage. It needs fine-tuning. Issues have already been raised that demonstrate the need for detailed examination.
I intervened earlier on Mr. Wyatt. Mr. Mitchell said that the M25 should take us out into civilization. There seems to be an unwillingness to think beyond the M25, and to conceive of creative genius elsewhere.
The Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television has made that point. It is looking for encouragement for creative producers throughout the United Kingdom. I also welcomed the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey about curbing pornography on the internet.
The Northern Ireland Advisory Committee on Telecommunications is concerned about these matters. Interestingly, to judge by their comments, certain Members from Wales and Scotland—and others—do not seem to think that there is another, remote part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is the only part with a land frontier, which adds to the difficulties. Both the Committee and I sympathise with the concept of having one representative for the three regions, rather than one for each region, in order to provide an understanding of what is going on. Given that representation on the Committee has increased from six to nine, that would not pose a tremendous challenge. The three regions represent 16 per cent. of the United Kingdom, population and it should be possible to find one person with the calibre and expertise to represent those regions, as well as dealing with such issues for the nation as a whole.
So far as Northern Ireland and certain other parts of the United Kingdom are concerned, some regulation is needed, because not every region is equally far advanced in terms of competitive communications. It is therefore necessary to provide some regulation; otherwise, the fear is that Northern Ireland will be left behind if it is not effectively and properly funded through regional representation. I welcome the suggestion that the consumer panel and the content board should include representatives from the regions, so that they might make a contribution.
Ours is a relatively small region. However, in dealing with some of the problems, and in listening to discussions on broadband, I have been fascinated to discover that, although we have a good fibre-optic network, we have not yet completed the linking of such communications. I have heard it said that the challenge of broadband can still be met through smaller groupings, and some people are already advancing broadband in rural areas and small communities. As has been pointed out, the tragedy is that, in some areas, even British Telecom has not established the modern communications that would help the development of broadband.