Telecommunications: Use of Churches

Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the effective use of churches in the telecommunications network.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Chair, Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee

This is a subject that my right hon. Friend has been very diligent in drawing to my attention. I recently met the Minister for digital and broadband, my hon. Friend Matt Warman, and we had a really positive discussion about the work the Church is doing to increase access to digital and broadband networks in rural areas. Hon. Members may recall that the Church signed an accord with the Government to put at their disposal all church buildings and land to try to make sure we can eradicate those notspots in rural areas.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

This is an issue on which the right hon. Lady has been both most helpful and assiduous, as she has been in the discharge of every duty she has undertaken in the 20 years that I have known her. I thank her for that service and wish her all the best for the future.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Chair, Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee

I am not sure what can be said in answer to that, but hon. Members present will know with what great affection my right hon. Friend is held, affectionately known by most of us as Dessie. There is no one I would rather entrust my life to in a tight spot than this remarkable, brave individual.

On the matter raised, I just want to record the Church’s welcome for the announcement made by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of match funding with £500 million for the initiative by mobile providers to share masts. It does not deal with the shortfall, where there are no masts, but that is where the Church intends to help.

Given the Secretary of State’s announcement that she is retiring, I would like to record my grateful thanks to her for her work in this Parliament.