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On Monday 2nd March, Matt Warman (Con) answered Richard Fuller (Con)’s question about what steps DCMS is taking to improve mobile phone coverage in rural areas. He said that the Government announced in-principle support in October 2019 for the mobile network operators’ (MNOs) Shared Rural Network (SRN) proposal. The proposal would share investment costs between the MNOs and government and increase 4G mobile coverage throughout the United Kingdom to 95 per cent by 2025. It will be underpinned by a legally binding coverage commitment from each operator. Warman added that the Government's in-principle support is subject to detailed negotiations..
On Monday, Matt Warman (Con) also answered a question from Alan Brown (SNP) what steps the Government is taking to determine where the hardest to reach parts of the country are; how areas will be prioritised and what the timescales for the programme are. Warman said that they will pursue an ‘outside in’ strategy to the delivery of gigabit-capable networks, meaning that while network competition serves the commercially feasible areas, the Government will simultaneously support investment in the most difficult to reach areas. He said the Government intends to invest £5bn in those areas that are likely to be unviable commercially for gigabit-capable network deployment and will require additional funding of some kind.
On Monday, Rebecca Pow (Con) answered Robert Halfon’s (Con) question on what steps DEFRA is taking to help mitigate the effects of climate change on the most disadvantaged in society. Pow said that for example, the formula for allocating the Government’s flood defence funding is weighted towards protecting people’s lives and homes. She said the most deprived areas of the country are eligible for higher payment levels than elsewhere.
On Monday, Luke Hall (Con) answered Alicia Kearns’ (Con) question on what steps the Government is taking to ensure that the Fair Funding Review includes consideration of rural indicators. On 2nd March, Hall said that the Government is undertaking a review of the relative needs and resources of local authorities in England. They are working closely with local government representatives and others to examine all of the available evidence for the costs faced by authorities. This includes how factors such as rurality, sparsity and other geographical features affect the cost of delivering services across the country, and how to account for these in a robust manner. They aim to consult on all aspects of the review in the Spring, and implement the review in 2021-22.
Kwasi Kwarteng (Con) answered Ben Lake’s (Plaid Cymru) question on 2nd March on what recent assessment BEIS has made of the effect on rural communities of changes in fuel prices. Kwarteng stated that The Rural Fuel Duty Relief scheme administered by HMRC provides support for rural motorists by compensating fuel retailers in specific rural areas with high road fuel prices.
On Friday, the Transport Select Committee released their programme of work for Spring 2020. The committee will look at local transport priorities including potholes, buses and active travel.
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