As many of you may be aware, little has taxed me more in the rural areas I represent this past couple of years than the provision of broadband. I do appreciate the concerns and frustrations which have been raised at various Parish meetings and by numbers of constituents from across the constituency, and understand how important broadband is to both individuals and businesses across my constituency.

Reliable, fast broadband is now seen as the norm. It underpins economic growth and allows homes to function in a digital age. Over 90% of UK premises are now able to connect to superfast broadband, and we are on track to reach 95% by the end of next year. This means that the UK has the highest superfast broadband coverage amongst the top five European economies. But I recognise that more needs to be done to ensure that all parts of the country, including North East Bedfordshire, have the access to the broadband they need.

I welcome Ofcom's determination in tackling issues that may prevent this from happening. Ministers have noted that the current relationship between BT and Openreach will not deliver the country's needs for more competition, better innovation and better service and they strongly support Ofcom in taking whatever action is needed to correct any competition problems, however radical a change that might be.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport are clear that a more independent Openreach is needed to benefit consumers and the UK's digital infrastructure. I share Ministers' concerns that British Telecom's proposals do not go far enough and think it is right that full structural separation remains an option. I know that Ofcom are seeking views on proposed changes to Openreach and I will follow the outcome of this consultation closely.

Locally both Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council have kept me up to date with the progress of the phased upgrading across my constituency and know that they will continue to do so. Broadband is a modern necessity, so please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance with any issues you may be having.