Agriculture Bill amendment proposes end to rural digital blackspots

An amendment to end the urban-rural digital divide has been tabled as the Agriculture Bill starts its third day in Committee in the House of Lords today (July 14).

Lord Holmes’ amendment (amendment 157) would require the Government to include broadband provision and digital literacy within the section of the bill that deals with financial support for rural development.

Earlier this year the Government’s response to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee report “An Update on Rural Connectivity” said it “intended to commit £5 billion” and offered “in-principle support for a shared rural network”.

This amendment would ensure the Govt moves beyond intention and in-principle support and demonstrate a real commitment to ensuring that all those in rural settings will benefit from reliable high-speed broadband and get the skills necessary to benefit from greater digital capacity and connectivity.”

Lord Holmes said: “This amendment would transform the lives of those who do so much to keep us fed, they have been on the frontline during the Covid crisis.

It is our turn now, to demonstrate that we are all in this together and to enable those living and working in our rural communities to get the internet access they have a right to and the necessary skills to thrive online.

“I urge the Government to look seriously at this amendment – it would have social, psychological and economic benefits.

“Let’s pass the amendment and take all of those benefits and more enable, empower our farmers, food and plant producers to continue to do what they do best – world-class production, benefited through world-class broadband provision and the ability to have the confidence online, matching that which they ably demonstrate in every other aspect of their business.”