Corbyn: Labour manifesto is 'going to knock your socks off'

15 November 2019, 11:45 | Updated: 15 November 2019, 12:27

The Labour leader addressing supporters
The Labour leader addressing supporters. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Labour leader has promised free broadband for all households saving them £30 a month on bills he said, "what was once a luxury is now an essential utility."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that his party's manifesto will be published next week, promising it will knock supporters socks off.

Beginning his speech in Lancaster, he said: "I'll let you into a little secret, when our manifesto arrives next week it's going to knock your socks off, you're going to love it, but I'm still not going to tell you what is in it."

He said the party would create the British Broadband service, which he claimed would be "central to Labour's plans to transform our country and economy".

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has vowed they will save the high street by ploughing hundreds of millions of pounds into deprived areas in an effort to save pubs and post offices.

At his speech in Lancaster Mr Corbyn said Labour's plans for free full-fibre broadband would help build a country "fit for the future".

He added: "The internet has become such a central part of our lives - what was once a luxury is now an essential utility.

"That's why full-fibre broadband must be a public service, bringing communities together with equal access in an inclusive and connected society. "

The party said it would pay for this by nationalising part of BT and introducing a tax on tech companies.

The rollout would begin with communities that have the worst broadband access, including rural and remote communities, followed by towns, then by areas currently well served by superfast or ultrafast broadband.

Tory Party chairman James Cleverly said the Labour leaders plans were "meaningless" unless he had a plan for Brexit.

Mr Corbyn said the plans will save the average household £30 a month on bills.

"Just 8% to 10% of the UK has access to full-fibre broadband, compared to 98% in South Korea. Something clearly isn't working.

"So, under our plans, we will create a new public enterprise - and we'll call it British Broadband.

"British Broadband will oversee a publicly-owned full-fibre network and deliver free broadband to every home, with a phased roll-out over ten years.

On the logistics, the Labour leader said the party would take existing infrastructure and nationalise it to create the new, free, service.

"To do that we will bring the relevant parts of BT, including Openreach, into public ownership.

"By creating British Broadband as a public service, we will lead the world in using public investment to transform our country, reduce people's monthly bills, boost our economy and improve people's quality of life.

"And it will have national security benefits too."

A spokesman for Virgin Media said Government policy does have a part to play, but that should also be to help cut the cost to the public.

The spokesperson said: "Virgin Media has the fastest scaled network in the UK and has pledged to bring next-generation gigabit broadband to half of the UK, by the end of 2021.

"As this commitment shows, private investment is essential to delivering improved broadband infrastructure.

"With billions of pounds worth of private money invested in the UK, Virgin Media continues to expand its network, providing competition and choice to consumers.

"Government policy has a role to play and can help to accelerate broadband deployment in a way that minimises the level of public subsidy needed and provides the UK and consumers with incredible connectivity within a competitive market."

Mr Corbyn said the roll-out process will begin with "those with the least connectivity" in "rural and remote areas", before moving on to towns and "well-connected urban centres".

He continued: "British Broadband will oversee a publicly-owned full-fibre network and deliver free broadband to every home, with a phased roll-out over ten years. To do that, we will bring the relevant parts of BT, including Openreach, into public ownership.

"By creating British Broadband as a public service, we will lead the world in using public investment to transform our country, reduce people's monthly bills, boost our economy and improve people's quality of life.

"It will have national security benefits too - to me, that's common sense."

Mr Corbyn said: "Full-fibre will provide the most reliable service and British Broadband will be properly staffed, with guaranteed jobs for everyone currently working in broadband.

"Under public ownership, key universal services can be run for the British people instead of for profit."

The Labour leader gave his plans a thumbs up
The Labour leader gave his plans a thumbs up. Picture: PA

Hitting out at Conservative rival Boris Johnson, the Labour leader said Mr Johnson had promised but not delivered full-fiber broadband to the country.

"In July, when he was running for Conservative leader, Boris Johnson also promised to make full-fibre broadband available across the country – except he expected you to pay for it.

"But it will surprise nobody that this was just another case of Johnson’s signature move: the broken promise.

"So what is he now offering instead? A low-budget option using old copper cables that are already out of date."

Mr Corbyn branded the Prime Minister plans as "yet another billionaire wealth grab, bunging public money to big corporations including Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin instead of putting the technology in the hands of the British people."

Conservative Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nicky Morgan has called the announcement a "fantasy plan".

She said: "Jeremy Corbyn's fantasy plan to effectively nationalise broadband would cost hardworking taxpayers tens of billions.

"Corbyn is clearly so desperate to distract from his party's divisions on Brexit and immigration that he will promise anything, regardless of the cost to taxpayers and whether it can actually be delivered.

"What reckless idea will be next?"

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