Vaizey row over 'Britain bigger than Morocco' statement


A Government minister was urged to “recognise the importance of geography” today after claiming Britain was bigger than Morocco.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey used the explanation to defend why the North African state would receive superfast broadband before the UK.

The North African nation has a population of about 35 million and an area of 275,500 square miles, whereas the UK has a population of 62 million and an area of 94,000 square miles - about a third.

Speaking at Culture, Media and Sport questions in the Commons, Labour MP Ian Lucas (Wrexham) asked: “Why is superfast broadband being delivered in Morocco by 2013 and in Britain by 2015?”

Mr Vaizey replied: “Because Britain is bigger.”

But his answer sparked widespread laughter across the Chamber, with Speaker John Bercow branding it “an immensely amusing and informative reply”.

Labour's Chris Bryant (Rhondda) said: “It's twice the size of this country. When it comes to expanding rural broadband, it's the size of the country that matters.”

Labour MP Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) said Mr Vaizey should “recognise the importance of geography by reinstating Labour's universal broadband pledge”.

Mr Vaizey returned to the dispatch box to clarify his remarks, emphasising he meant Britain had a bigger population, rather than land mass.

“It's an interesting fact that Morocco has less than half the population of the UK,” said the minister.

“I find it odd that the other side of the House seems to have such distaste for Morocco.

“What's wrong with Morocco getting superfast broadband? Why is it seen as some sort of weird phenomenon?”