Broadband plan is welcomed by MP

Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has welcomed measures laid out in the Queen's Speech which could improve the lives of those in rural communities across Northumberland.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 19 May, 2016, 14:27
Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan with Wooler resident Michael Aitchison.

Her Majesty opened the new session of Parliament and outlined the Government’s legislative programme for the coming year in a speech to members of the House of Lords and members of the House of Commons.

The much-anticipated Digital Economy Bill will seek to establish a ‘universal service obligation’ for broadband, giving everyone the legal right to broadband at speeds of at least 10Mbps.

Mrs Trevelyan said: “The Digital Economy Bill is intended to assist those living in rural communities, such as Northumberland, access good broadband which for many is still a dream.

“It would enable people to demand a connection, and at a decent speed, even though they may live in a difficult to reach area.

“I will be looking hard at the finer detail of the Bill when it comes before Parliament, as I will want to ensure that the cost cap enables my constituents in Northumberland to get connected. At present it is easy for BT Openreach to say it is too difficult or too expensive to connect some properties – I hope this Bill will prevent those excuses and I look forward to working on it this year.”

There will be a consultation over the summer which will enable the Government to decide the finer details of the universal service obligation, and will be used to establish the financial commitment required to support rural communities in accessing the new 10Mbps minimum broadband service.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Queen also announced the new Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill to reform planning and give local communities more power and control to shape their own area.

Mrs Trevelyan said: “Those of us that live in small rural villages want them to thrive, and to welcome new families to live in them.

“Most people I speak to recognise the need to build new homes, but want them to complement rather than overwhelm existing communities and services.

She added: “Neighbourhood plans set out where new homes can be built within existing towns and villages, and ensure the county council cannot overrule the views of local communities.

“That is why it is so important that each parish council drafts a neighbourhood plan – I wrote to every parish council in my constituency some months ago, and many told me they have not yet formulated a plan – this leaves those villages vulnerable to unsympathetic developments. I would encourage councils to establish plans to ensure local communities are the driving force behind any new developments.”

The Queen’s Speech was expected to include a ‘Sovereignty Bill’ to attempt to reassert the supremacy of the UK’s legislative bodies over the European Court of Justice. The plan to include such a Bill was shelved. Speaking of her disappointment at its absence, Mrs Trevelyan said: “I am disappointed but not surprised that the Government has had to abandon its attempts to legislate to curb the power of Brussels, as it simply isn’t possible. The European Courts can overrule UK law while we remain a member of the EU.”