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West Suffolk MP becomes the new minister for broadband and culture

Matthew Hancock sees broadband coverage as a priority in his new ministerial role (142137-0869) PPP-140723-181045003
Matthew Hancock sees broadband coverage as a priority in his new ministerial role (142137-0869) PPP-140723-181045003

Broadband coverage and growing high tech companies are the top priorities for West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock in his new role as Minister for Culture and Digital Economy.

Prime Minister Theresa May moved Mr Hancock sideways from Paymaster General– a post he held since May 2015 – to the new role in the Departments for Culture Media and Sport and for Business.

Mildenhall Museum's display on the Mildenhall Treasure ENGANL00520130108160324
Mildenhall Museum's display on the Mildenhall Treasure ENGANL00520130108160324

It gives him a wide range of responsibilities, including digital strategy, infrastructure, skills and markets, cyber security, culture, media and the creative industries. His predecessor Ed Vaizey’s tasks in his last month ranged from an Anglo-French exploration of innovative data use to the risk of an £8 million 1532 Book of Hours being exported.

On Tuesday Mr Hancock described it as ‘a fascinating and exciting job’ and said he was looking forward to ‘getting stuck in’ to the museums and galleries side of the job.

But he stressed: “Delivering broadband across the country is obviously critical, so is building the digital and technology economy, which is increasingly important in West Suffolk, East Anglia and across the country.”

He added: “Broadband coverage is one of the things people are most likely to contact me about as a local MP, so I realise just how important it is.

“At the moment, 88 per cent get access to superfast broadband – that’s at least 24 megabits per second. We’ve got a commitment to get that up to 95 per cent by the end of the year and universal coverage to every premises by 2020.

“We’re going to be making that law in the coming months.”

In addition, he will support the digital economy, which he said was a big area of growth.

So did the sale of Cambridge processor specialist Arm Holdings to a foreign company worry him?

“We want to grow them here and the people buying Arm have promised to increase jobs in Cambridge,” he replied. “It does also release £24 billion to invest in other growing businesses.

“What matters most is where the jobs are and where the business is growing.”

On the arts side he said it was important to spread the funding or museums and galleries across the country and not just in London, though it was inevitable that national museums would be there.

“We’re in the middle of appointing a new chair for the Arts Council, and that will be high on the list of questions,” he said.

He pointed out how the Mildenhall Museum has been supported to display a replica of the Roman Mildenhall Treasure and the grave of the Lakenheath Saxon warrior and horse.

“You get an extra context when you can see history close to where it happened,” he argued.

He agreed that digital technology was also a way museum collections could be opened to wider audiences.

He added: “If you look at the digital economy, one of the things Britain is good at is bringing arts and culture to bear and doing it in innovative ways.”

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