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Tim Farron's Recent Appearances in Parliament

Tim Farron speaking on unaccompanied refugees (Liberal Democrat Newswire)Content supplied and updated by theyworkforyou.com

  • Sep 23, 2021:
  • Sep 22, 2021:
  • Sep 21, 2021:
    • Project Gigabit | Westminster Hall debates

      I apologise for interrupting the Minister's helpful speech. The 60,000 figure is very important, but does she recognise that as things stand, unless she defers the deadline for the voucher scheme on Friday, the communities that I have listed, which I got from B4RN, will be in limbo at the very least? While they could have looked forward to a connection very quickly, over the next year or so, they will now be at best put back several years. Can she not think of a way of doing both: of ensuring that she connects the 60,000 she talks about, while not dumping and pulling the plug on those communities that I just listed?

    • Project Gigabit | Westminster Hall debates

      That is absolutely right. Traditionally, it is hard to earn a living in remote areas, but with high quality broadband we can live in a glorious place. I often say that if someone could live and raise their kids in South Lakeland and make a living, they would. We have an opportunity to do so. That applies to many other people and Members who have similarly glorious constituencies.

      The Government's decision to end the voucher scheme this week will be a body blow to the communities I have listed and to the others that I have chosen not to list for now. It is all the more cruel because of the real hope that our communities were offered that, through the B4RN model and the voucher scheme, they could and should have been connected. When B4RN comes to a community, it does not just build a world-class fibre optic network; it builds a community. It becomes a focus of energy, endeavour and a collective triumph against the odds. Communities that have been through the B4RN process are glued together with new friendships, new common interests and a new sense of community.

      The Minister should know that the damage her decision will do to our communities goes far beyond the technology and to the very heart of those communities and community life. Those of us who have been through the experience and are proud to vouch for B4RN and for the hundreds of volunteers who have delivered the connections are at a loss as to how the Government can ignore that lived experience.

      I have two simple solutions to solve the crisis, and then I will draw my remarks to a close. First, will the Minster commit to ensuring that all properties in areas where B4RN is already demonstrably engaged are given deferred scope procurement status? That will ensure that those areas are not part of the initial procurement scope of the regional supplier and that a B4RN build supported through voucher funding will still be available.

      Secondly, will the Minister allow any pre-registered packages associated with deferred scope areas to remain open through the rest of the procurement process to ensure that the B4RN build programme is not disrupted? How can the Government claim to be levelling up when they are removing the chance for people living in the most rural areas of Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and elsewhere to access hyperfast fibre-optic broadband in their homes?

      This is a model that the rest of the country could learn from and emulate. Instead, it appears that Ministers-at least so far-have not been interested in learning from success and instead want to impose failure. That is why I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak today and to plead with the new Minister to listen to B4RN, to local MPs and, more importantly, to our communities, and not to be the Minister responsible for promising Project Gigabit but delivering "Project Pull the Plug".

    • Project Gigabit | Westminster Hall debates

      My hon. Friend knows all about remote and rural communities, which make us in Cumbria look bijou, concentrated and urban by comparison. Yet, obviously, the challenges we face are very similar. Yes, understanding that the most difficult-to-reach parts of our country broadband-wise are the ones where we should start, rather than the ones we fill in after the fact, is something that we have pressed successive Governments to take seriously. B4RN tackles that.

      The great shame is that the Government's decision to end the voucher scheme in just three days' time, while the procurement process takes place, will basically turn Project Gigabit into "Project Pull the Plug" for many of our towns and villages. Rather than allowing B4RN to carry on connecting our communities, the Government will instead allow big multinational companies with a track record so far of failing to meet rural need in Cumbria with a free shot at connecting properties in our communities. The difference between them and B4RN, however, is that they will not connect 100% of the properties. The Government will say that they are only obliged to connect 80% of properties-which they could probably have connected commercially anyway, but have not. We all know where the other 20% will be, do we not? They will be the most rural, the most remote. The communities that B4RN offered hope to will now be victims of "Project Pull the Plug".

      Successful community providers such as B4RN have pulled people together, strengthening communities in the process as volunteers literally go shoulder to shoulder to dig trenches and to connect homes and businesses. Personally, it was a real privilege for me to join residents digging in Old Hutton and to build lasting friendships in the process. Landowners large and small had waived payment, because they know that B4RN is not for profit and that the beneficiaries are their local neighbours. Communities such as Old Hutton, once the least connected place in Cumbria-I tell you, Dame Angela, that is saying something-now have world-class connections, thanks to B4RN and to Ministers in the past who listened.

      Today's debate will give us an insight, if the Minister will forgive me for saying so, into whether she will be one who listens. Her predecessor was a very nice man, but on this he did not listen. He visited Mallerstang in the constituency of the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson) and met Michael Lee, the chief executive of B4RN, who explained why removing the voucher scheme would kill off so many schemes that could connect rural communities in Cumbria. The Minister came, got his photograph and must have left behind everything he was told-or, he let it in one ear and let it slip out the other ear on the train ride back south.

      The Government's plan for rural broadband bears all the hallmarks of one of those great bright ideas dreamt up in Whitehall-a bright idea that, in reality, does inexcusable damage to rural communities, all the more inexcusable because so many of us have explained patiently and in detail why that is so. However, it does not need to be that way, and the Minister has the power to fix it today. If communities where B4RN is demonstrably engaged and actively planning are moved into the deferred procurement scope, and if voucher application remains open for those communities during the procurement process, B4RN will be able to continue to help level up remote rural communities through the delivery of future-proof fibre-optic infrastructure.

      Our rural communities are under enormous pressure. The Government's failure to restrict second home ownership and continuing to permit innocent tenants to be evicted so that landlords may quadruple their income through holiday lets mean that the very survival of many of our villages is at stake. Access to fast broadband is one way to ensure that local families can afford to remain in our area and to make a living-to run their businesses, to maintain a foothold in Cumbria, and to be able to stay there and raise their children there, keeping schools open and communities alive. For the Government to pull the plug in that way would be either cruel or foolish, or both. They may no longer pretend that that will be an unintended consequence of their plans, because we have shown them clearly what the consequences are.

      Even if we believe the Government when they say that the voucher scheme might be replaced in a year or so, that will be too late, because all that might be left to connect will be the 20% of properties that BT and co chose to ignore. The voucher scheme will be of little use then, because B4RN depends on pooling funding from the vouchers of all the community in order to connect all the community. By securing the business of the towns and villages, it builds up the money to connect the homes, farms and hamlets that are most rural and otherwise financially unviable. The Government's procurement plan, which abandoned the hardest-to-connect 20%, will be the death of the B4RN business model. When the Government designed the plan, they did not know that-fair enough-but now they do and they have no excuse. The Conservatives will be killing off rural broadband in Cumbria. They know that, and today we will find out whether they care.

      The Minister will need to look these communities in the eye, especially those that the Government choose to dump, and explain why she has chosen to pull the plug. Hot off the press today I can reveal the communities that the Conservative Government have chosen to pull the plug on: Kirkwhelpington, Great Salkeld, Storth, Woodburn, Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale, Nateby, Lazonby, Melmerby, Brough Sowerby, Crosthwaite, Hugill, Far Sawrey, Kirkby Ireleth, Hawskhead and Claife, half of Skelwith Bridge, Ackenthwaite, Whassett, Broughton-in-Furness, the Rusland valley, Lowick, Great Langdale, Skelton, and 548 properties in the village of Burneside. There is a list of other communities still hugely at risk because of Project Gigabit's procurement plan, but B4RN will do everything it can to deliver within a year. I make the decision on the hoof to not name them because it would take acres of time and I do not want to blight them. There is a massive chance that they will succeed because B4RN will do everything it can, despite all the odds stacked against it.

      Every one of the communities that I have listed will rightly feel that they have had the rug pulled from under them by the Government. Those communities were pulling together, voluntarily giving up their time and energy, and working with a tried and tested B4RN model to deliver to some of the most remote parts of our country. Getting connected is a matter of life and death for some of those communities. It is about the ability to learn, trade and communicate. It is the difference between communities thriving and being sustainable and being cut off and therefore unsustainable.

    • Project Gigabit | Westminster Hall debates

      I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention. For us, B4RN has done something unique from a not-for-profit angle, to fill in the gaps from the grassroots up. That is a model that we should see emulated in other parts of the country, rather than have it accidentally-I would say-snuffed out by a good idea at Whitehall that turned out to be a bad idea in practice.

    • Project Gigabit | Westminster Hall debates

      I beg to move,

      That this House has considered Project Gigabit and community-led internet service providers.

      It is a massive pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Angela. I also offer a massive welcome to the Minister. I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to raise a massively important issue to rural communities. This is a half-hour debate, yet it is great to see friends and colleagues from Cumbria and beyond who share my concerns.

      We want to talk about the extremely urgent issue of Project Gigabit. The deadline for applications for the broadband voucher scheme is in three days. After that, the Government plan to cancel, or at least park, the scheme for now. Every day we become increasingly dependent on digital technology, not only for leisure but for work. The covid pandemic has led to more of us working from home, so access to quick, reliable and affordable broadband has never been more important than it is today.

      In my community, one in four people in the workforce works for themselves. The impact on small businesses, particularly start-ups, of a very high quality broadband connection is utterly transformational-or something that can delay their access to the world of commerce. I welcome the Government's Project Gigabit on paper, with its promise to deliver at least 85% gigabit-capable coverage across the UK by 2025. However, I am alarmed that this well-intentioned scheme will, in practice, result in thousands of rural homes, many of which were on the verge of being connected to hyperfast fibre-optic broadband, missing out altogether.

      I am talking about towns and villages that have been working with the community-led internet service provider, Broadband for the Rural North or B4RN-known to most of us as "barn". I am delighted that Michael Lee, the chief executive of B4RN, is with us today in the Gallery. B4RN has brought hyperfast broadband to more than 9,000 properties across Cumbria, Lancashire and Northumberland. It offers 100% of properties in a community a fibre connection to the premises, no matter how hard they are to reach, and with no additional cost passed on to the individual. It even offers free connections to schools, churches and village halls.

      It has been able to do all of that through the Government's various voucher schemes. In the last quarter alone, B4RN has connected 587 more properties to the network, though its plans for the next few years have been put into serious doubt because of Project Gigabit's procurement process. B4RN's business model gathers vouchers from households in a rural area and then pools them to deliver a scheme that connects every home, including those that are the most remote and difficult to reach. It then delivers immensely fast broadband at speeds that BT will only deliver if customers pay through the nose, and they would be lucky even then.

  • Sep 15, 2021:
  • Sep 14, 2021:
    • Local Government: Meetings | Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what his planned timetable is for publication of the results of his Department's consultation on local authority remote meetings.

    • Health and Social Care Levy Bill | Commons debates

      We would need to raise income tax to do what the hon. Gentleman's Government say they need to do in the short term to get through, and then we would have a ring-fenced, bespoke tax that would deal with social care. If people had lived to the age they do now when Lord Beveridge, the fine Liberal who came up with the welfare state and the NHS in the first place, wrote his plan, there is no doubt that social care would have been part of that package, and we would be paying more tax now as a consequence. I say we should be doing what we were doing around Dilnot a few years ago, when we were moving in the right direction, sworking often across the House, and coming up with a package that we would pay for. In the short term, though, we would immediately raise a tax that is affordable and fair and does not just clobber those people on low wages and people of working age. That is the right thing to do.

      That is why this measure is not just the wrong way of going about this but a colossal missed opportunity. We were promised something like the Beveridge report, and we ended up with something written on the back of a fag packet. We need something that means people will look back on this generation the way people still do on the generation of politicians post war who built the welfare state in the first place.

    • Health and Social Care Levy Bill | Commons debates

      I probably agreed with at least three quarters of what the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) just said. One thing I did not agree with him on was his belief that the Government have grasped the nettle. I believe they have walked past the nettle, barely nodding at it, and the people who will be stung are the people still in social care, the people working in social care, and the people who will disproportionately pay for what the Government are proposing.

      Conservative MPs and the Conservative press are concerned about the Prime Minister breaking his promise on taxation, but the promise he has most definitely broken is the one he made during the leadership contest in 2019, when he said he would

      "fix the crisis in social care once and for all".

      He has done no such thing; that proposal is not before the House today. There was a promise not to raise taxes. If the Government chose to break that promise, I would be happy to provide them with cover for that. Labour may have dodged the issue, but I am clear that we should raise income tax so that this is paid for by people who have the wealth and ability to pay for it-not by national insurance, which often will disproportionately fall on younger working-age people. What do those people tend to have in common? They cannot afford a home, or at least a house that they own. What will we be asking them to do? To fund those who have a home to have the right to leave it to those who come after them.

      Nobody should be forced to sell their home to pay for care. Just a few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who sadly has cancer. This was a terrible thing to say, but he said, "I feared cancer and I feared dementia, but I've got the least bad of the two." He is living with cancer now. The reality is that, for many reasons, his care is paid for, but for those like my father-in-law, my grandfather and others who suffer from dementia, that care is not provided for. So it is right to have radical reform of social care, but this is not it. It is right that all the parties should get together to ensure we have a common approach to this, but this proposal has been dreamt up and issued as a press release-it is not the reform of social care we need.

      This reform of social care does nothing to tackle the 120,000 care assistant vacancies in our country, or to give social care staff the pay and esteem they deserve. One reason there is a crisis is that wonderful people can earn more money stacking shelves than they can caring for our loved ones, of whatever age. This plan will do nothing to give local authorities the money they need to backfill the terrible backlog and black holes that the Government have left them. Again, they are taking unpaid carers for granted and-the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith) rightly mentioned this earlier-not addressing the needs of those in care who are not of retirement age but significantly younger. This is a massive missed opportunity that will be paid for by people who have the least.

      In my community in Cumbria, we are about 10 years above the national average age. We have a smaller working-age population and a disproportionately large population in need of care. We have colossal staffing shortages as things are. This measure does nothing to meet the needs of the people in my community, because it does nothing to invest in the quality and standard of the care that they will receive.

    • Large Goods Vehicles: Free Movement | Department for Transport | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will publish the total amount spent by his Department to research the impact of ending free movement on the haulage industry.

  • Sep 10, 2021:
  • Sep 9, 2021:
  • Sep 6, 2021: