Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:23 pm on 10th July 2017.

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Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 9:23 pm, 10th July 2017

It is a pleasure to be the last Back Bencher to be called in the debate, which has been incredibly interesting, although I think that, at times, the connection between the clauses in the Bill and the contents of speeches was well and truly lost. There was a suggestion that constituents of ours would have been able to watch the debate online. If that is the case, given certain parts of it, I find myself feeling sympathy for the 93% of the public who have such access. My hon. Friend Mr Jayawardena, who is no longer present, said that innovation would permit constituents to watch the entirety of his speech online. Conservative Members speculated on whether that same innovation would allow the battery in his phone to last quite as long. Perhaps there is still some way to go.

None the less, this has been an interesting debate, and I am delighted to be able to use the last few minutes to further it. Despite great work by my local authority, East Sussex County Council, and indeed by the Government, too many of my constituents do not have a connection to fast broadband. My constituents’ age profile is high, and in order to balance our local economy we must encourage more working-age people to come to live and work in East Sussex. It is not too far from London, but, from a commuting perspective, particularly given our travails with Southern rail, it is too far to be attractive to many such younger working-age people. My constituency is fortunate in that 75% of it is designated as an area of outstanding beauty, so in that sense it draws people to want to come there to set up their own businesses, but they will not do so without the connectivity of superfast broadband.