MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has reacted angrily to suggestions the Government may miss its target of delivering 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the country by 2025.

The warning came in a National Audit Office (NAO) report which assessed the current state of play in the national mobile connectivity roil-out.

Mr Liddell-Grainger represents West Somerset and will be the Conservative candidate in Tiverton and Minehead at the next election.

He said said unless the target was met, rural areas such as Exmoor and the Blackdowns could be left lagging behind the rest of the country with its businesses operating with one hand tied behind their backs.

The Government has committed £500 million to the Shared Rural Network programme and is working with the four main service providers to achieve 95 per cent coverage by land mass.

But NAO said delays in building new masts and concerns about the programme’s affordability meant it was unclear if the target could be met.

Under the terms of their agreement, any additional costs will fall on the companies.

But they have a get-out clause in their contracts if they become ‘excessive’, which the NAO said was a further threat to meeting the coverage target.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said businesses and individuals in areas such as Exmoor would read the report with dismay.

He said: “Once again they are effectively being warned it may be too expensive to deliver 4G to areas where they live.

“The cost of serving rural areas has cropped up time after time and I have repeatedly pointed out that with the financial pickings they enjoy in towns and cities the service providers could easily cross-subsidise the higher bills for connecting the countryside.

“There has been well-founded research to show that, partly because of poor connectivity, productivity is 19 per cent lower in rural areas. 

“Equally, if they were properly served business performance would be cranked up to deliver another £43 billion to the economy every year.

“By any measure that represents a very good return for the few million extra that may be needed to complete the coverage programme.

“It is, in short, a bargain, and one the Government should be seizing.”