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

I do not believe those councils have, but my hon. Friend touches on another issue. I am referring to East Sussex County Council and Brighton and Hove Borough Council, but outside of Brighton but within East Sussex it is the district councils that would have the planning condition powers to which he refers. Therefore, I doubt that those councils have done so, but this is perhaps a good example. of where districts can work better together with their county cousins.

This might seem like great news for East Sussex, but I am afraid we are starting from a very low base in terms of where we are operating from. The recent report by the consumer organisation Which? found that Rother District Council’s geographical area, which covers the bulk of the 200 square miles of my constituency, is in the bottom 10 of all districts and boroughs in the entire British Isles for average broadband speeds. Rother joins the highlands, the Shetlands and the Orkney Isles in the bottom 10 performing areas. In contrast, the residents of Tamworth, which tops the list for speeds with an average of 30 megabits per second, are much more fortunate. The average speed for Rother is less than 10 megabits per second.

Bearing in mind that 10 megabits per second is deemed to be the minimum acceptable standard by Ofcom, I very much welcome the Minister’s commitment that 100% of my constituents will receive 10 megabits per second by 2020. The Which? report suggests that the increased performance for the Rother District Council area will be vital if the Government are to meet their 100% target. May I therefore put in a blatant invitation to the Minister to meet me to discuss what help could be offered to my constituents in Rother, in addition to the provisions in the Bill and the universal service obligation, to enable me to assist the Government in meeting their target?

In conclusion, I welcome the Bill as part of a package of proactive measures from this Government to deliver faster broadband. I should also mention—notwithstanding the fact that I just said, “in conclusion”—that I welcome the further reforms to the business rate mechanism. I do not wish to wander too far from the topic, but I can think of many examples of business rates having an impact on businesses in which services are being offered. We should not forget, for example, that Members of Parliament are subject to business rates, as I found out to my personal cost when I exceeded my IPSA budget for my staff office. I therefore absolutely welcome the point made by my hon. Friend Kit Malthouse that business rates should be linked to turnover, rather than to premises. That would certainly help my constituency. As a further meander, Mr Speaker