Knight’s Days - the Life at Westminster column with Sir Greg Knight MP
Areas like the East Riding can be fabulous places to live and although countryside economies usually have agriculture at their heart, increasingly a diverse range of businesses and small industries are being set up, utilising the freedom that the internet has brought and which removes the need for many businesses to be based in a town or city centre.
Official figures show that although only around 17% of the population of the UK live in rural areas, those regions contribute 20% to England’s total economic activity and provide the locations for 25% of all our registered businesses.
So, ensuring rural businesses thrive is an essential part of a healthy UK economy.
However, the potential of countryside economies to do better is currently undermined by the patchy performance of some broadband services.
Official government figures suggest the UK has 8% full fibre broadband coverage with over 80,000 homes a month now being connected. However, this figure needs to be nearer 400,000 a month!
As a nation, we may now be on track to reach four million front doors by March 2021, up from an earlier three million prediction in the same timeframe, but this ambition needs to be raised further if rural businesses are to be able to satisfactorily compete with the rest of the developed world.
I am therefore pressing the government to introduce greater incentives for the speedier roll-out of high-speed broadband and to look at simplifying our laws to allow quicker access for the installation of infrastructure.
Our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to address this, and he has my full backing.
In 2019 and beyond, there is no reason why an area which is geographically isolated needs to remain digitally isolated.
Talking of Prime Ministers, former PM Labour’s Harold Wilson always used to take his holidays in the Scilly Isles.
It was his resort of choice and he even bought a small bungalow there.
Outgoing PM Theresa May was regularly seen hiking in Wales.
So, it was a pleasure to see new our PM taking a break in East Yorkshire a few weeks before he became Prime Minister. Whilst here, Boris visited Bridlington, Bempton and Kilham as part of a relaxing few days and his verdict was glowing. He told me afterwards that he thoroughly enjoyed himself and thought East Yorkshire was a remarkable place.
Boris is only our second Prime Minister who was born outside of the UK.
The first was Andrew Bonar Law, who was born in New Brunswick and he came to Scotland when he was 12 years of age.
Boris, on the other hand, came to England as a baby.
I am hoping that he has nothing else in common with Mr Bonar Law, who became Prime Minister in 1922 but served for just 211 days, making his tenure in Downing Street the shortest of the 20th Century.
This is one record that our new Prime Minister will be hoping not to emulate.