Superfast Broadband — [Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:13 pm on 24th June 2015.

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Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset 3:13 pm, 24th June 2015

Prescience about what we might say in our speeches is not restricted to Emily Thornberry, because my hon. Friend takes me neatly on to my next point. It is worth while reminding a large company such as BT—and I have little or no doubt that it will be listening to the debate with keen interest—that such macrobusinesses have the future of microbusinesses in their hands.

However, it is not just a question of business. Other hon. Members have talked about the importance of broadband connection to schools and colleges. There is a primary school in my constituency, Spetisbury, that has no access to broadband at all, and none in sight. Other hon. Members have spoken about the problems for agriculture. Farmers are increasingly asked to make submissions online, but there are swathes of the Blackmore vale where people might as well try to write on vellum with a quill, for the speed they can manage on the internet. In North Dorset we often call it the superfast bridle path.

Businesses such as Goldhill Organics, an online business in my constituency, and an award-winning maze designer in Durweston, are all significantly held back from growth and the creation of jobs—from bringing people back to paying tax and getting them off the dole queue. That is all fundamentally constrained by an inability to get access in a rapid and reliable way to what I think we would all now agree is effectively a basic utility.

Tourism and events in a rural area are absolutely key. I am thinking of pubs with letting rooms, such as the Talbot in my own village of Iwerne Minster. Again, they are held back from growing their business and seeing a return on their investment. BT has done much and is to be congratulated. We are leading in the European league table, but please let us not sacrifice the 5%; please let us not forget the rural areas. In closing, I press again the three key points that I made to the Minister in opening.