Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:40 pm on 10th July 2017.

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Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset 6:40 pm, 10th July 2017

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Who among us has not visited an agricultural show or small business that cannot afford the necessary infrastructure for the interconnected pieces that allow people to pay by credit card or contactless? However, by plugging a whizzy device into an iPhone—my right hon. Friend the Minister for Digital and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage know all about this, but it baffles me—my credit card can be charged for whatever service I have purchased, thereby helping small and medium-sized businesses. That also helps particularly, though not exclusively, those people who make and sell things from home and do not have commercial premises from which to trade.

The Bill is helpful for all those reasons. It will also help the next generation. Television and other advertisements always focus on getting faster film, the latest cartoon, watching sport and so on, all of which is welcome and laudable. There is also, however, potential for huge learning opportunities for our young people through the delivery of education in a 21st-century setting. That will, I hope, boost and bolster our productivity, and it can all be assisted by superfast and reliable broadband.

Over the past seven years, the Government have made the most enormous strides. We have occasionally beaten up our Ministers and others, saying “I’ve got this village or that hamlet that isn’t covered.” As I said at the start of my speech, this issue is not reserved solely to the rural setting; it is also an issue on the edge of Tech City here in London and elsewhere. However, if we pause and look at the data, we will see that, notwithstanding some of the problems we have had, we are striding ahead of many of our European friends, who are also our economic and commercial competitors, in providing access to broadband. We should not always beat ourselves up. At a time when we are all being fed the negative and “the anti”, this is something about which the Government should be duly proud, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage has said.

The Bill is a fundamental and very important next step. We hope and believe that it will assist better and faster delivery in our rural areas in North Dorset and across the county of Dorset. It has my full support. The Ministers promoting it have my admiration and encouragement, and I look forward to seeing it make speedy progress through this House.