In Parliament this morning (26th January), Michael raised two separate issues: the retirement of Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield along with the training needed for Deans of our Cathedrals; and the slow speed of some urban broadband networks operated by Openreach.
“Church of England questions come once a month in the House of Commons” says Michael Fabricant. “In Church Questions today (26th January) I talked about the management training needed by Deans of our great Cathedrals including Lichfield where the Dean, Adrian Dorber, will shortly be retiring.
“I asked Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, whether he plans to visit Lichfield Cathedral to see the work of Dean Adrian Dorber.”
Andrew replied: “I look forward very much to coming to visit Lichfield Cathedral, but sadly that may not be until after Dean Adrian Dorber retires. I know that the Dean’s work has been so significant, that I will see many ongoing examples of his tremendous legacy when I do come.”
Michael then said: “My Hon Friend is absolutely right, because he will see the Herkenrode Glass, which has been beautifully restored, and he will hear the magnificent organ where £6 million had to be raised in order to make it sound so beautiful. This is a reminder to me that a Dean’s work is not just spiritual: it’s fundraising, it’s management, and all the other activities that go on in running a great and successful cathedral like the one in Lichfield.
“So can I ask my Hon Friend; what sort of training is given to newly appointed Deans? It seemed to me that poor Adrian Dorber had to learn on the job, and then with a little bit more investigation Mr Speaker – it’s a bit like being a Speaker actually – you just all have to learn everything on the job! Can’t we do something to improve that?”
Andrew Selous replied: “You would think that Lichfield Cathedral was the only cathedral of the Church of England, because my Hon Friend is one of the very few members in this House who regularly stands up for his or her cathedral.
“Running a cathedral, as he quite rightly says, is not only a major spiritual undertaking to proclaim the good news of Jesus, it is also a huge management task, which is why we require all new Deans to undertake a component of an MBA module before taking up office.”
Michael Fabricant says “A little before Church questions, in questions to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Michelle Donelan, I told her that while broadband coverage and speed is fast improving in rural areas, there are pockets in urban areas where broadband coverage is still very slow.
“I asked her ‘What steps she is taking to increase broadband speeds in urban areas’”
Michelle Donelan said: “We have made it as attractive as possible to deploy gigabit broadband in the UK by busting barriers and requiring Ofcom to promote competition and investment. There are now over 80 providers investing nearly £35 billion rolling out. Gigabit broadband coverage has risen to 73% from 6% in early 2019. The vast majority of urban areas will be connected commercially at no extra cost to the taxpayer by 2025.”
Michael then asked: “As we’ve already heard today, the spread of broadband into rural areas is going ahead at pace. But there are pockets in urban areas; I’m thinking particularly of here in Westminster, and in the centre of Birmingham where Openreach is using very old technology, which is twisted copper pair, which has been around for over 100 years, which can’t develop the speed. So it’s up to firms like G.Network, Hyperoptic, Virgin and also City Broadband who are providing that service.
“But they don’t always provide a telephone service, so what can my Rt Hon Friend do to encourage Openreach to upgrade their technology and infrastructure in urban areas?”
The Secretary of State answered: “As the Hon Member points out, London and the West Midlands are amongst the best connected regions in the country; coverage in London is at 83%, and Birmingham is even higher at 93%. But, there is still more to do as my Hon Friend points out.
“This month we brought into force new laws that make it easier for telecom companies to get faster broadband into 9 million flats where people are living, and also the vast majority of premises in urban areas will be connected by 2025, whether that be by Openreach or by another provider, at no cost to the taxpayer.”