THE ENVIROMENT Secretary has said the Government will close the rural broadband gap even if the cost is regularly subsidising satellite internet for the hardest to reach homes and businesses.
Liz Truss has said the Government will work up plans to fund new ways of getting households online where laying broadband cables is not an option.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Ms Truss outlined her priorities for the five years ahead now she leads a Lib Dem-free Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Secretary of State made clear she is prepared to renew a battle with the EU for stricter country of origin labeling on food sold in the UK, as well as backing the Government’s broadband efforts.
Across England and Wales some 850,000 people have no broadband internet access, with the Government admitting around five per cent of households will never be reached by traditional methods.
A select committee report before the General Election warned ministers this was not good enough, saying the Government must look at taking on the cost of providing universal broadband access as a right similar to that of the postal service.
Asked if the Conservatives would back the cost of subsiding internet access for hard to reach areas, Ms Truss said: “That is exactly what we are looking at, I understand that is the plan.”
She added: “We are seeing broadband improve, we will achieve 95 per cent coverage by 2017. Yes there is the five per cent of households who might not be reached by superfast broadband but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is clear that people will be able to use alternative technologies so that everyone has access in due course.”
Ms Truss is currently preparing her next set of priorities, and this will mean giving farmers and food producers the protection they need when it comes to helping people buy British.
The Yorkshire Post has campaigned for a Clearly British label to make sure food is not imported here, processed and repackaged as home grown. While there has been a partial victory this year, there is till more to be done.
Ms Truss said European Union regulations were stopping her expanding the scheme.
She said: “We have country of origin labeling now, it came in on April 1, for meats such as lamb, chicken and pork. If the packaging says origin it means it has to have spent entire life tin this country.
“What I want to do is make further progress of that. At the moment it is just whole fresh meat, but we should now be looking at lightly processed meat and diary products.
“At the moment although most of the milk we consume in the UK is British milk, the majority of products we actually import, so that’s the majority of say our yogurt of cheese.”
Ms Truss added: “The EU is looking at diary products at the moment, we have spoke about processed products. Obviously there are some issues there, it gets tricky in processed meals, but we want to see where this can be expanded provided the regulatory cost are not huge.”