Broadband in Wales — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:53 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn 2:53 pm, 6th July 2016

I think I had a false sense of security there. But seriously, that money was targeted and redistributed by the European Union to the areas of greatest need, and we in Wales, particularly rural Wales, were some of the main beneficiaries of that money. It was identified at Brussels level that that funding was needed in certain areas that met the criteria set out, and it helped the scheme to be rolled out as effectively in Wales as anywhere in the United Kingdom. That is down to the partnership between, and moneys from, different levels of government.

Some 73% of properties in Wales have been covered by the roll-out of a 30 megabits per second superfast broadband initiative, and 76% of Anglesey has been covered by the scheme. The average speeds are in excess of those in some other parts of Wales, so there is a good news story there. However, as with all good news stories, there are people who are not benefiting. The date for 95% roll-out has slipped from July 2016 to 2017. To be fair, there have been negotiations under the contract between the Government and BT Openreach, leading to the Access Broadband Cymru scheme providing grants of up to £800, which have helped individuals get fibre to their hard-to-reach homes directly. That is good news, but we need to see that happening more quickly.

As the hon. Member for Ceredigion said, many of the areas in the last 5% are rural areas that rely on tourism. They are beautiful areas, and people want to locate there. I will give an example—I am sure the Minister will be interested in this. I travelled on a train a couple of years ago, and a businessman who lived in Rhoscolyn on Anglesey told me that he worked in three places: in Canary Wharf, here in London; in Hawaii; and in Rhoscolyn. If he had a choice and the broadband speed was there, he would stay in Rhoscolyn to do his work. Unfortunately, he has to go to Hawaii and suffer out there or come here to London to work. There is a serious point there: in many cases people want to locate their business in the area in which they live, which helps the local economy. We need to have a level playing field when it comes to digital technology.