Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:54 pm on 10th July 2017.

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Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills 7:54 pm, 10th July 2017

I bow to the hon. Gentleman’s judgment on that one. Sadly, I did not have much chance to use the “brick”; I seem to my recall that my husband used it more than I did. However, I do have my own iPhone these days, so things have changed. Today, we can stream films into our homes and download music. I have something that I call the boogie box. I can have it in the kitchen or move it around the house, and it picks up the music from my iPhone. It is just amazing what we can do and how technology has changed our lives. It has also changed business and so many other things.

The Bill is relatively short, but it is very important. It gives effect to one of the commitments on digital communications that were made in last year’s autumn statement. It is also important because it aims to give targeted support to the roll-out of full-fibre broadband connections and 5G mobile communications. Often, when we talk about infrastructure in this place, we are talking about roads, railways or bridges. We are talking about very visible and tangible pieces of infrastructure. That infrastructure obviously matters to the local area, as well as regionally or nationally, but occasionally something that seems small can have a much more far-reaching impact.

This Bill is about a piece of infrastructure that is far less visible. We see the green broadband boxes as we drive round our constituencies, but we cannot see the full-fibre broadband. We will know it is there, however, because we will be able to access it. Although the technology is not visible, the Bill will enable full-fibre broadband to reach across England and Wales to the benefit of residents and businesses across the country and across my constituency.

Many hon. Members have given examples this evening of where broadband makes a difference in their constituencies—an individual household, a small retail business, a large manufacturer in a business park or someone working in the gig economy. Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the local economy in my constituency. Whether in the shops of Aldridge village centre or in one of our many and varied business parks, businesses are creating jobs, driving the investment that is reducing unemployment, and developing skills for today and for the future. Such businesses may use the internet to sell their goods, to order components or materials, or to run their customer service. The internet is now an integral part of business.