Labour has accused the Government of a “broken promise” as it suggested it was not on track to deliver an election pledge to roll out full fibre broadband to the whole of the UK by 2025.
The Government said it has made a £5 billion commitment “to getting to as close to 100% broadband across this country as fast as we possibly can”.
But shadow culture minister Chi Onwurah suggested in the Commons on Thursday that only £1.2 billion is planned to be spent by 2025, the year the Conservative’s 2019 election manifesto said it intended to bring “full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK”.
Ms Onwurah said: “It is another broken promise. Full fibre by 2025 was the Prime Minister’s pledge and the 2020 budget set aside £5 billion to deliver it.
“Can the minister confirm that only £1.2 billion of that £5 billion is planned to be spent by 2025, and far from full fibre we won’t even get affordable broadband?
“Over two million households find it hard to afford broadband, according to Ofcom, yet the Government is slashing broadband price controls, slashing the broadband budget, slashing at Universal Credit support and slashing gigabit targets. When will we get the broadband we need?”
Minister for digital infrastructure Matt Warman replied: “The fact remains that this is a £5 billion commitment to getting to as close to 100% broadband across this country as fast as we possibly can.
“The only barrier to doing that is the speed with which we can dig up the roads, the speed with which we can lay the cables, and this Government will do every single thing it can to make sure every single barrier is removed to spend every penny of that £5 billion as quickly as we can.”
Elsewhere during the session of questions to ministers in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Mr Warman said the decision on what is defined as harmful content for children online will be made by Government, not online platforms, following a question from Conservative MP David Davis.
The minister said: “The fact is that the Online Safety Bill does not delegate that decision to online platforms. What it does is define the harmful content that companies must address. And the Government will set out the categories of those harmful contents later on.
“Companies will need to ensure that children are protected from any content that meets this definition, and that will clearly be directed by Government, it will not be delegated to them.”