Michael Fabricant undertook a web chat on the Conservative Party Website
during the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool. Michael answered
questions on rural broadband, the World Trade Organisation, the demise of
manufacturing in Britain, and internet issues. Michael was answering
questions as Shadow Trade and Industry Minister.
The chat can be seen by logging onto
The text of some of the chat is shown below:
Q: "Given that Britain has long lost its ability to control its own trade
policy, and inter alia is no more than an observer at the WTO, is it
Conservative Party policy to repatriate trade policy and trade treaties from
the EU/EC to support British businessmen. And if not, why not?"
MICHAEL FABRICANT: Unfortunately, Labour has given away our ability to
negotiate independently as a nation at the WTO. I, myself, would like to see
some of these powers repatriated. Britain has much to say – and we won’t
always agree with Brussels on some issues!
Q: "What will you do to encourage the roll-out of broadband in rural areas ?
What are your views on Universal Service Obligations ?"
MICHAEL FABRICANT: Technology is changing so rapidly, I just don’t believe a
Universal Service Obligation for ADSL makes much sense. Some very rural
areas are now being provided by wireless broadband and other technologies
are coming on stream. The Countryside Agency has just produced a study of
broadband provision in rural areas and it is well worth reading – the
publication is on the web
Q: "What measures would a Conservative Government take to ensure that the
manufacturing base in the UK was rebuilt if they won the next General
MICHAEL FABRICANT: The British Chambers of Commerce have identified £20.3
billion of extra burdens and red tape imposed on business since Labour came
to power. The CBI say that £47 billion of new business taxes have been paid
by business since 1997. We will halt the rise in business taxes and we would
put a time limit on employment regulations so that they wouldn’t be
automatically renewed. Removing these costs will give British manufacturers
a real chance to compete.
We must also fight our corner in Europe to defend British manufacturers.
With the French and Germans defending their industries, we just cannot
afford to stand aside and accept the consequences. Labour doesn’t defend
British business and our manufacturing industry in the European Union.
Q: "Is e-voting a good thing ?"
MICHAEL FABRICANT: Yes. Anything that can defeat political apathy has to be
a good thing. But we must ensure that the system is safe and cannot be open
"Will the Conservatives encourage the adoption of Single Sign On allowing
each user of an IT service to be Identified Authenticated and Authorised –
and thereby limited to certain areas eg under 18 over 18 reducing fraud and
the activities of paedophiles at a stroke? Plus some sort of promotion of
‘powerline’ broadband would be good on the basis that DSL is not viable
nationwide and satellite and wireless are non starters."
MICHAEL FABRICANT: In principle, this has its advantages and would help to
prevent paedophile activity on the net. But, there is no foolproof system
currently available to stop ‘impersonation’. But we will look at this as the
Q: "Do you support new laws to cut spam ? Would they be effective ?"
MICHAEL FABRICANT: Yes I do! But even if Britain imposes laws which we would
support, we must ensure that they are enforced worldwide otherwise spam will
be originated in more obscure locations. This is something we must push
international bodies to pursue amongst their member countries. This is a
very real problem: some predictions have it that if spam continues at the
current rate, the internet will grind to a halt sometime in 2004.