Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:09 pm on 10th July 2017.

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Photo of Ranil Jayawardena Ranil Jayawardena Conservative, North East Hampshire 8:09 pm, 10th July 2017

Mr Deputy Speaker, as ever, you make an excellent suggestion. I will speak to the hon. Gentleman in due course.

As we allow fibre to be rolled out, using this relief, to areas that have not been accessible in the past, it is important to reflect on the way in which people are changing their behaviour. People are moving to mobile. We need to ensure that accessibility to the mobile network—the fibre network—is possible. That is why it is critical that we work with companies such as Network Rail to roll out fibre on its land as well as across other people’s land.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills said, all of this is in stark contrast to the way in which we used to work. It is important that people are helped along this journey. If we want to roll out more fibre, we need to ensure that there is proven demand for it, otherwise it is simply not commercially viable. We need to reduce the operating costs, which we are doing through business rates relief for the roll-out of new fibre. It is good to see the new digital training opportunities that have been created as part of the digital strategy. The new digital skills partnership is seeing Government, business, charities and voluntary organisations come together, which is really positive news. I should declare an interest, so I refer Members to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. A plan by Lloyds Banking Group to give face-to-face digital skills training to 2.5 million people, charities and small businesses by 2020 is a good example of that partnership. Google has pledged to provide five hours of digital skills as part of its commitment, too. The idea has been adopted by business.

The strategy and these plans demonstrate that the Government take businesses and people seriously in rolling out fibre broadband across the country. This is part of the cuts to business rates that benefit all rate payers and will be worth almost £9 billion over the next five years, and it is part of the Government’s focus on ensuring that we create an economy that serves the whole country—all the nations and regions. It is about ensuring that the Government are committed to the long-term reform of this country.

Who would have thought that Alibaba and Amazon would be the big retailers of today, not the greengrocer on the high street? Who would have thought that we would have been speaking to people across the world on FaceTime instead of flying across the world to see them? Who would have thought that people would be able to watch this speech on their mobile phone rather than read it, dare I say, in Hansard? I am sure that many will.