Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:41 pm on 10th July 2017.

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Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 8:41 pm, 10th July 2017

Of course, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you very much for that kind reminder.

This Bill matters. As my right hon. Friend Mr Vaizey, the former Minister, mentioned, it is not necessarily the most thrilling Bill. It is relatively short, with six clauses; as a former lawyer, I can appreciate that brevity is often harder than writing something very long, so I admire the draftsmen’s ability in putting together something so succinct. The Bill should have strong support not just from the Government but from all parties, as has already been suggested by Opposition speakers.

My constituents in Hitchin and Harpenden, only 30 to 40 miles from central London, face patchy broadband coverage in many areas. I appreciate the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage—it is often harder to get broadband in spread out villages and rural areas than in tower blocks and urban areas. It is physically harder; I appreciate that, but the village of Kimpton, slap-bang in the middle of my constituency, has pretty terrible broadband.

Let me give the House some statistics to back my point up. In Kimpton, no residence or business receives superfast broadband. We are in the bottom 7% in the country for average download speed and in the bottom 0.5% for connections of more than 30 megabits per second. There is still a job to do and, with due deference as a new Member of the House, I say to the Government that we still have a job to do connecting up rural areas in our country. We should not forget that.