Productivity: Rural Areas

Part of RAF Valley: Funding and Employment – in Westminster Hall at 5:03 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:03 pm, 14th October 2020

It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ghani.

Anyone who could make a living among the lakes and dales of south Cumbria, just would—the problem, of course, is the ability to make that living. One in four of my constituents in work works for themselves, and they are entrepreneurs. We want to encourage that strongly, and the fact that we have 95% officially superfast broadband in my constituency is hugely welcome.

That 95%, however, does not ring many bells for the chief executive officer of a trading and development company in our big town of Kendal, which has a 0.05 megabits per second upload speed. The reality, and the figure that matters, is not the 95% superfast broadband, but the 9.7% of my constituents who have fibre to their home. That compares with the 27% nationally, and even that figure is a disgrace. That is what matters the most, that 90% of my constituents rely on copper wires, a 20th-century solution to a 21st-century problem.

Given the time available, I simply want to make this case to the Minister: if the Government want Britain to be levelled up with the rest of Europe and the rest of the developed world, that is where we need to start. We need to aim for 95% fibre to the home or the premises right across the country, starting in rural areas, because that is where it will do the most good.

I said that one in four of my constituents works for themselves, and that they are entrepreneurs and creative. Even more could be if they were given the ability to be better connected. I look at our community at the moment, struggling from covid and doing their best to work from home, in circumstances that were utterly unthinkable just six months ago. I am sure we will not go back to how things were before. When we go back to work more generally, post-covid, we need to be able to compete, and we will do that only if we decide that we will adopt that 21st-century solution, and build fibre to the home.