Thursday 16th May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Secretary of State was asked—
Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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1. What steps he is taking to help improve the reliability of rail services for passengers.

Samantha Dixon Portrait Samantha Dixon (City of Chester) (Lab)
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3. What steps he is taking to help improve the reliability of rail services for passengers.

Huw Merriman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman)
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Performance varies across the network and is dependent on both reliable infrastructure and strong operator performance. Where we have both, as on Greater Anglia, passengers enjoy great performance, and I am clear that this is a standard for all operators to achieve, working with their Network Rail route counterparts. I regularly meet Network Rail and train operators to encourage greater collaboration on day-to-day performance, including convening a rail industry summit in March.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne
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With fares up and cancellations at a record high, rail passengers are crying out for change. In my patch, Reddish South and Denton stations are served by just one train a week. I would like a train service that meets our needs, but the Minister seems to have put rail reform on the back burner. Is that because he cannot deliver, or he thinks Labour will?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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The hon. Member is completely wrong. The pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Rail Reform Bill is being done right now by the Transport Committee. I think I am the final witness to appear before the Committee next week, so that it can, I hope, report in July. Contrast that with the passenger-in-chief approach of meddling with the railways and indeed of a resource-led timetable to fit the existing staff, and I think it is quite clear that it is the Conservatives who want to improve the rail system.

Samantha Dixon Portrait Samantha Dixon
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Summer has arrived and tens of thousands of visitors will be heading to Chester and north Wales, and cross-border connectivity is essential. I remind the Minister of his Government’s cast-iron commitment, made in October, to electrify the north Wales main line. When will the north Wales main line actually receive an allocation of real money so it can start work on the electrification of the line?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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The hon. Member is absolutely correct that the Prime Minister’s Network North commitment means over £36 billion of former HS2 money is being put into other projects, chiefly in the north and the midlands. The electrification of the north Wales main line is one of those, and it is something I am determined we will deliver. We are taking steps in allocating project time and resource so that we can advance such projects, but bear in mind that the HS2 spend was for up to 2043, so it will not all come at once.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Transport Committee.

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con)
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Is it the case that train operating companies stand ready to invest significantly to improve passenger journeys, but a disincentive is the break clause in current contracts? Ahead of wider reforms that the Transport Committee is scrutinising at the moment, may I urge the Minister to review those break clause arrangements and incentivise that investment now?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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This is the folly of Labour’s nationalisation plan, because the best performing operator in terms of punctuality is Greater Anglia, and that one has the option that is coming up. The Labour party, if it makes it into government, would take away the contract from the operator that has the best performance, showing that it is all about dogma and not about best common sense. I firmly believe that where operators can deliver more for passengers, and indeed for their workforce, by having more certainty, there is certainly a case to be made for looking at those contract terms and giving them longer.

Jeremy Wright Portrait Sir Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam) (Con)
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My hon. Friend knows that after decades of closure, Kenilworth station has been reopened by a Conservative Government and a Conservative county council. However, the reliability, indeed the variety of services through that station, would be significantly improved by double tracking the line between Leamington and Coventry. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for the time he has already given me on this issue, but will my hon. Friend do all he can to bring about that improvement, which will benefit not just my constituents, but also provide connectivity options that the northern leg of High Speed 2 no longer will?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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My right hon. and learned Friend has been a champion of that project, and as he mentioned he met the Secretary of State to discuss it. HS2 is making provision for the project to occur should funding be available, and the new local transport fund makes funds available for those parts where HS2 would previously have been delivered. There is now a great opportunity for my right hon. and learned Friend’s transport authority to fund the project that he has championed for so long.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Stephen Morgan Portrait Stephen Morgan (Portsmouth South) (Lab)
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In the five years since the Government first admitted that reform of our railways was needed, passenger services have gone from bad to worse, with a train now cancelled every 90 seconds—the worse statistics on record. With the Transport Secretary openly admitting that any reforms this side of an election are unlikely, does the Minister understand why passengers have given up on this Government doing anything to improve their rail experience?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I do not agree with that assertion. Post privatisation—nationalisation would reverse this—passenger numbers have doubled, and £100 billion has been invested in the railways by this Government since 2010. We look at performance, which of course we want to get better, but in March for example, 70% of trains were running to time, with 2.9% of cancellations. The two biggest cancellation failures during March were one trespass and one suicide, and the trespass alone caused 286 cancellations. Yes, there is more we need to do, but the Opposition Front-Bench team would have a lot more credibility if they recognised performance indicators and what parts we need to deliver, rather than just chucking dogma about nationalisation, which is a tired, failed old policy.

Owen Thompson Portrait Owen Thompson (Midlothian) (SNP)
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2. Whether his Department provides grants for the provision of training for D1 licences.

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Guy Opperman)
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Although we do not provide direct funding for drivers to obtain D1 licences, the Department makes available more than £3 million a year through the bus service operators grant to community transport operators in England, which are predominantly charities operating vehicles that require D1 licences. They receive £1.60 for every £1 claimed, reflecting the increased costs faced by the sector, and supporting them to continue delivering inclusive and accessible transport across the country.

Owen Thompson Portrait Owen Thompson
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I thank the Minister for that answer. In Scotland, as across the rest of the UK, there has been a shortage of minibus drivers, with Brexit and the legacy of covid fuelling a crippling shortage of bus drivers. Passenger-carrying vehicle drivers can pursue careers in various fields, including public transport, tour and travel companies, school transportation and private charter services. What more can the Government do to incentivise such training?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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The hon. Gentleman might not be aware of the recent consultation to reduce the age requirement for bus and HGV drivers from 21 to 18, and I encourage him to speak to the Department for Work and Pensions. We are working closely with the relevant Ministers at DWP to have sector-based work academies and skills boot camps, to encourage greater participation by drivers.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con)
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4. If he will fund exploratory rail studies on passenger numbers through the local transport fund.

Huw Merriman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman)
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The local transport fund is a £4.7 billion fund that has been allocated to local authorities in the north and midlands to fund a wide range of transport measures. The funding empowers local leaders to invest in the transport policies that matter most to people in their area, and that could include rail studies. Guidance will be published shortly to support local leaders in developing their plans, but it will rightly be a local decision.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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May I first congratulate my hon. Friend on the award of £168 million to the East Riding to improve transport, whether that is potholes, bus shelters or whatever else in Beverley and Holderness? The Minister is aware of my championing, alongside Labour colleagues, Liberal Democrat colleagues and the councils across the whole area, of the reopening of the Hull to York line through Beverley. I am delighted to hear him confirm today that that funding can be used to explore and produce a refined demand model for that railway. Will he confirm that?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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My right hon. Friend is indeed a great champion for this scheme, which we have discussed many times. I am pleased to confirm that the local transport fund could be used to develop the new rail link between York and Hull via Beverley. It is important to say that it will be for the local transport authority to decide, and I encourage him to continue to engage with it. Our upcoming guidance will set out more detail about the scope of the LTF, and I am sure he will continue with his mission to deliver.

Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore (Southport) (Con)
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5. What steps he is taking to improve transport connectivity for towns and cities in the north-west.

Mark Harper Portrait The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Mark Harper)
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Before I answer my hon. Friend’s question, may I just welcome very strongly your statement at the beginning of business, Mr Speaker, standing up for the rights of Members to debate things in this House and the importance of protecting their security? That is welcome, and I am sure it will have been welcomed by all parts of the House.

In answer to my hon. Friend’s question, Network North will see a further £19.8 billion of investment in the north of England following the redirection of funding from the second phase of HS2. Liverpool city region is one of six areas to benefit from nearly £4 billion of uplift in the second round of the city region sustainable transport settlements. A further £1.48 billion is going to the non-mayoral local authorities to fund a wide range of projects. Guidance on how that should be spent will be forthcoming shortly.

Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore
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My right hon. Friend knows how important rail connectivity is to my constituents. It will be further enhanced by the reconnection of the Burscough curves, a project that is also supported by our hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher), who has her own campaign for a station at Midge Hall. Given the importance of schemes that link areas, will he issue stronger guidance for transport authorities to have better links between each other, rather than just within their own transport areas?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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As my hon. Friend knows, I recently hosted a roundtable, bringing together him, his local authority, Lancashire County Council, local rail operators and other interested parties to discuss how to further develop the business case for the Burscough curves. He will be aware that we have allocated that money to the local transport fund. Lancashire County Council will get £494 million over seven years, starting next year. I suggest he continues the conversation we have had to urge the council to look at developing that scheme. We will be publishing guidance encouraging it to do that, working with Members of Parliament in the very near future.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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You can think of Coppull station.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab)
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When will the Secretary of State improve on the timetable at the time of Gladstone?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I am not entirely certain—the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) set out clearly the improved performance that we have seen this year. We are clear that we are integrating track and train with our rail reform that is being scrutinised in the House, and that will improve things. We have recently reorganised the Department, bringing in Alex Hynes to link that together. That is how we deliver improved performance. We have set out those plans clearly. Legislation before this House is being scrutinised by the Select Committee of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart). We look forward to its report, which I understand we will get before the summer recess, to take those plans forward.

Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn) (Con)
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We welcome the £494 million in Lancashire, as you will in Chorley, Mr Speaker. We have also been having discussions about what we want to see with that funding, whether that is at the Hare and Hounds junction in Clayton or just fixing potholes across the constituencies. One of the important things in Hyndburn and Haslingden is making sure that our train stations are accessible for everybody. We currently have a few bids in, including Church & Oswaldtwistle and Rishton. Will the Secretary of State look favourably upon those bids?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for welcoming the money that will go to her local authority. We will make it clear in the guidance, which I hope will be welcome to you as well, Mr Speaker, that local authorities should very much involve their Members of Parliament in discussing those priorities. I hope that every Member in the north and the midlands where local authorises are getting those funds will take advantage of that.

On my hon. Friend’s specific point about accessibility and our Access for All programme, as she knows, a number of bids were made and they are currently being scrutinised. I hope that, in the near future, we will be able to set out which ones will be funded. I urge her to wait for that announcement. I wish her good luck. Obviously, I cannot prejudge that process, but I hope that she is successful.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
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Will the Secretary of State explain why train fares have risen almost twice as fast as wages since 2010?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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The hon. Lady will know that over the last two years the Government have made significant interventions to keep rail fares rising no faster than the rise in people’s wages. She also knows that we have to balance the farebox against the taxpayer. She will know that, because of the pandemic, the taxpayer has put in £31 billion over a couple of years to protect the rail industry. Passenger figures have not yet recovered to their numbers beforehand. That is why it is important that, as soon as we can, we get rail companies on contracts that incentivise them to drive up the number of passengers using the service, which is how we will reduce the call on the taxpayer and enable fares to be kept competitive.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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6. What recent progress he has made on the East West Rail project.

Huw Merriman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman)
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For connection stage one of East West Rail. I was pleased to attend an event in March to mark the completion of work on the final section of track connecting Bicester and Bletchley, with services expected to commence next year. At the spring Budget, £240 million was announced to accelerate work introducing services between Oxford and Bedford by the end of the decade. Following the announcement of the preferred route alignment between Bedford and Cambridge last May, a statutory consultation is due to launch this summer.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller
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The connection of East West Rail from Bedford to Cambridge will cost the taxpayer an enormous amount of money—the Minister knows that, because he was at the Transport Committee sitting right next to the permanent secretary when she said so—although apparently that is okay because a few landowners and developers will make shedloads of money out of planning gain. Meanwhile, the latest chief executive officer of East West Rail has scarpered because he could not stand the heat in the kitchen.

As the Minister said, East West Rail is progressing with a statutory consultation—having completely fluffed the first consultation by not contacting the right people—but holding it over the summer months while people are away. All the time, the project is being driven by the economic growth board in the Treasury, which meets secretly and tells people nothing. What can the Minister tell my constituents about this project?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question —[Laughter.] He was indeed in the same room as I was when I was with colleagues—this is an important aspect—from the Treasury and the Department for Levelling Up as well as our permanent secretary to discuss the cross-governmental co-ordination that will be required to unlock all the economic benefits. As he knows—we will not necessarily agree on this point—I believe that East West Rail is critical in delivering a workforce to Cambridge, which will allow Cambridge to compete with the likes of Boston and cities in south-east Asia so that those pioneers have a workforce and we can keep Cambridge, and indeed Oxford, motoring on that basis.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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On that basis, let us go to Cambridge.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. Indeed, some are more positive about the improved connectivity potential in and around Cambridge, but the Minister will be aware that his colleagues in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities recently established the Cambridge delivery group, which is looking to create 150,000 additional homes, which will in turn create a whole series of transport challenges. Will he tell the House what structures are in place to ensure proper dialogue between his Department, DLUHC and East West Rail?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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The East West Rail growth board, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) pointed out, is being led by the Treasury, will be critical to ensuring that joined-up approach. It is essential that we look at this project as an economic opportunity for the area. I have met my hon. Friend’s constituents as we have both travelled around, and I appreciate that there is an impact where there is housing, but if we do not have a workforce, Cambridge and that region will not be able to compete on the global stage and we will not see the pioneering scientific and bio-health developments that we see from Cambridge. That is why I believe that this railway is critical.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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7. What steps he is taking to support bus manufacturing.

Mark Harper Portrait The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Mark Harper)
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The UK boasts a strong and highly competitive bus manufacturing industry. Manufacturers have benefited significantly from Government funding as we work with industry to decarbonise the bus fleet. More than 5,200 buses have been funded across the UK since February 2020, with UK bus manufacturers supporting many of them. UK manufacturers have grown substantially in recent years as a result of their success in securing orders, supported by £460 million of dedicated ZEBRA—zero-emission bus regional areas—funding.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
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The reality is that the UK Government could do much more. At Tuesday’s sitting of the Transport Committee, Mick Whelan of ASLEF said that in Germany, they have German trains and in Italy, they have Italian trains. He said:

“Before they award a Government contract, they look at their supply chains, future apprenticeships and all the things associated with those contracts”.

Why does the UK continue to destroy its own industrial base by refusing to implement similar procurement policies for all transport manufacturers, including buses? There is too big a reliance on Chinese imports.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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As I said, UK bus manufacturers have done very well out of decarbonisation policies. They are every competitive, and I have had the opportunity in this job to visit a number of them. If the hon. Gentleman believes that there is unfair competition from imports, he knows that there is an independent statutory body, the Trade Remedies Authority, whose responsibility it is to look at importers where there might be dumping. If he thinks there is any evidence of that by any manufacturers, he should provide that evidence to the Trade Remedies Authority so that it can conduct an investigation, as appropriate.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Simon Lightwood Portrait Simon Lightwood (Wakefield) (Lab/Co-op)
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The UK has a proud bus manufacturing history, from London’s iconic original Routemasters to Alexander Dennis’ next generation of hydrogen double-deckers used today in the Liverpool city region. As operators and local authorities decarbonise their fleets, UK manufacturers are ready to power that green revolution, but our bus makers are at risk from cheap models imported from overseas. This week, a major UK operator is preparing to procure Chinese-built buses for tens of millions of pounds due to cost pressures and because this Government have not set out a full industrial strategy since 2017. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what he will do to back British bus manufacturers and secure their role in this green revolution?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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The hon. Gentleman will know that it is not possible, given our international commitments under the World Trade Organisation, to specify that people have to buy British buses. He will also know that British bus manufacturers are very competitive. The Government have made support available to businesses through our Advanced Propulsion Centre and UK Export Finance. As I said to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), if the shadow Minister thinks that there is any unfair competition with subsidised imports, the Trade Remedies Authority has all the tools at its disposal to deal with that.

We back British buses. We have fantastic manufacturers, and I have confidence in them. In a fair competition, our bus manufacturers can take on the world. Wrightbus has had £76 million of support from UK Export Finance to support its ambitious exports. It is a shame that he does not have the same faith in British industry that we do.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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Deary me, Mr Speaker. We have confidence in the bus manufacturers, and it is a pity that the Government do not—that is the problem. Unlike SULEBS and ScotZEB—the Scottish ultra-low emission bus scheme and the Scottish zero-emission bus challenge fund—the ZEBRA scheme has been a failure. No spin from the Dispatch Box can deny that, and our bus manufacturers are paying the price. We must learn from this, and we can start by encouraging those purchasing zero-emission buses to place greater emphasis on social value and wider environmental and economic impacts when evaluating tenders. The Government must take responsibility. Will the Secretary of State consider conducting a cross-Government review into prioritising domestic manufacturing within existing legal frameworks?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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People are able to put social value into their tenders. My understanding is that local authorities do that, but they are not allowed to have a specific commitment to buy from a certain provision. The hon. Gentleman has to decide whether he has confidence in our fantastic companies, as he set out. In a fair competition, some of the companies that have been mentioned—some of which I have visited—can win against competitors around the world. If he thinks that there is unfair competition and that companies are being subsidised, he should give the evidence to the Trade Remedies Authority, which has the legal structures and the tools to do the job.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We’ve had one question about buses, and then a second one comes along.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Ind)
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8. What steps he is taking to support local bus services.

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Guy Opperman)
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The Government have provided over £4.5 billion to support and improve bus services since March 2020. Leicestershire County Council received over £3.5 million in emergency recovery funding to help maintain services during and after covid, and has recently been awarded up to £7.6 million to deliver its bus service improvement plan.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen
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As the House will know, the word democracy comes from the Greek “demos”, meaning the people, and “kratos”, meaning power—power to the people. Well, the 1,200 people in North West Leicestershire who signed a petition for the reinstatement of the numbers 16, 29 and 29A bus services on their original routes are not feeling very empowered. Despite a very well run campaign, there is no movement from Arriva or Leicestershire County Council. What can the Minister do to help my constituents?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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Where commercial operators want to change a service, as I understand happened in this community, they have to work with the local authority to replace services where possible and limit disruption. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that Leicestershire County Council has also received over £1 million from the rural mobility fund to trial demand-responsive services, and I encourage him to meet it.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
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My constituents and I are extremely concerned about Arriva’s sudden proposals to close its depot in Aylesbury, with no warning that it was even being considered. The company admitted that it would mean ending the vast majority of its services in our area, causing huge problems for those who rely on its buses to get to school, work and hospital. I have demanded an urgent meeting with its senior management, but what can the Department do to help hold Arriva to account and ensure Aylesbury residents have the bus services they need and deserve?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I am aware of this problem, which has recently come to light. I would certainly encourage a meeting between the local authority, the bus company and my hon. Friend, and I will assist him in any way in that respect. I am aware that some local operators, in the form of Carousel Buses and the Oxford Bus Company, are running some of the services, but I accept that there is an issue in Aylesbury and I will help him on an ongoing basis.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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9. If he will have discussions with (a) Airbus and (b) Boeing on air safety.

Anthony Browne Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Anthony Browne)
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Both I and departmental officials engage proactively with industry, including Boeing, Airbus and other manufacturers, on aviation safety. The Civil Aviation Authority, the independent safety regulator for the aviation sector, also engages regularly across the industry. I should point out that we have some of the safest skies in the world. The fatal accident rate of UK airlines is among the lowest in Europe and the world. We have not had a single fatal accident involving commercial passenger airplanes for more than 29 years. I am determined that that safety record will continue.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Sheerman
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The Minister might know that I am the chair of a manufacturing group for Members of Parliament. Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Boeing are amazing manufacturers at the heart of our manufacturing economy, but does he agree that we must sort out the problems that seem to have occurred in the manufacture of Boeing’s 737 MAX? Does he agree that the faster our regulators work with American regulators to sort this out, the better for British jobs and British innovation?

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne
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I absolutely agree with the hon. Member that they are amazing companies with huge operations in the UK and enviable safety records. Not one of the 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9s operating globally operates in the UK or from the UK, so there was no need to ground them. The Department for Transport liaises closely with American authorities. The CAA follows very closely the work of the US Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that safety standards remain as high as possible.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
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10. What recent discussions he has had with helicopter search and rescue operators on the adequacy of response times.

Anthony Browne Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Anthony Browne)
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The right hon. Member will be aware that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is conducting an analysis of recent incident data to examine whether the demand for the search and rescue helicopter service has changed since the launch of the UK’s second generation search and rescue aviation procurement. It is expected to be published by the end of 2024. I have had no recent discussions on this point, as the review is ongoing.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Carmichael
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I thank the Minister for his answer—he seems to be aware of the situation—but a new threat to search and rescue response times is emerging, namely the poor and deteriorating industrial relations between Bristow’s management and its staff. As we speak, members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association who work in SAR cohort 2 are on strike, having been driven to it by a management who are playing negotiating hardball on salary and on terms and conditions. Will the Minister call in the management and make it clear to them that, as the customer, the Government expect them to treat their search and rescue staff with the respect and consideration that their skill and bravery deserve?

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne
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I know how important search and rescue services are in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and he has been a great champion for them. Good industrial relations are clearly vital to ensuring that they operate effectively, and I am sure that the MCA will keep that in mind during its review. I should add that just this morning, I agreed to meet the management of Bristow.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
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11. What funding his Department is providing for road resurfacing.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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16. What funding his Department is providing for road resurfacing.

Mark Harper Portrait The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Mark Harper)
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The Government are firmly on the side of drivers, which is why we are using funding reallocated from the HS2 programme to improve the condition of the country’s local highways network. Our record funding increase of £8.3 billion for local highways maintenance in England over the next decade will enable highways authorities to resurface roads and fix thousands of potholes across the country.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers
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The Secretary of State and his Ministers are well aware of my campaign for the removal of the concrete surface of the A180. It is now six years since I received a letter from the then roads Minister telling me that the work would be completed by the end of 2021. Can the Secretary of State tell me when work will begin to remove that concrete surface and make the road much safer than it is at present? Can he give me a firm date?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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My understanding is that the A180 is part of the National Highways concrete roads programme and that there is a plan to undertake additional treatment to reduce noise substantially early in the next road investment period, which starts next year. My hon. Friend may wish to meet the roads Minister to discuss the matter in more detail and secure some specific information about the timing.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne
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As my right hon. Friend knows, Shropshire’s road network is the fifth longest in all the English local authority areas. Last autumn, he made a welcome announcement about a significant increase in funding—£150 million—to repair and improve roads, and he made another in February about the HS2 reallocation of £136 million. Will he explain to me, and to other Shropshire Members, what that will mean in practical terms for the amount to be spent on roads during the next Parliament?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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My right hon. Friend is correct: Shropshire County Council will receive two pots of money, a minimum uplift of £153 million from 2023 to 2034 for highway maintenance and a further £136 million under the new local transport fund, starting next year and continuing for seven years. Those figures represent a significant increase on what the council would otherwise have received. We will provide more detail shortly about the guidance on how the money should be used and, as I have said in response to earlier questions, Members of Parliament will be involved in setting those priorities.

Sarah Dyke Portrait Sarah Dyke (Somerton and Frome) (LD)
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Somerset is unfortunately home to tens of thousands of potholes. Persistent flooding makes the problem worse, but so does the lack of attention given to improving the resilience of our roads. Does the Secretary of State recognise the importance of future-proofing them, with specific funds for local authorities to spend on measures of that kind, as opposed to pothole funding that serves only as a temporary sticking plaster?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I am pleased that the hon. Lady has asked that question, because I absolutely do. Part of our purpose in not only giving local authorities that significant funding increase but spreading it over 10 years, so that they have certainty over a longer period, is to enable them to move away from dealing with pothole filling and to embark on a proper road resurfacing programme. That funding will pay for the resurfacing of more than 5,000 miles of roads, thus delivering to the hon. Lady’s constituents the improvement that we all want to see.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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Residents in West Fenham recently said to me that car mechanics must be the main beneficiaries of Conservative transport policy, given the steady flow of work for them caused by the terrible state of the roads. A local authority survey says that the roads are in their worst condition for 28 years, and AA call-outs are at a five-year high. How can the Secretary of State possibly say that he is on the side of drivers when the roads are in such a terrible condition?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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The hon. Lady has just demonstrated why our decision to allocate a very significant and unprecedented increase in spending to improving local highway maintenance is exactly the right thing to do. I have noticed that my local authority is busy resurfacing roads across my constituency and the rest of Gloucestershire. The money we are providing will enable every local authority to do that over the coming decade.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
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At the last Transport questions, the Secretary of State suggested that drivers know what they are getting with a Conservative Government. Well, drivers know one thing they are getting from this Government: more potholes—a hundred times as many as there are craters on the moon. In 2023, RAC patrols attended 33% more breakdowns related to poor road maintenance than in 2022, and AA call-outs were at a five-year high. The road repairs backlog has gone up to an eye-watering £16.3 billion, which is far greater than his allocation of money from scrapping the northern leg of HS2. Is it not abundantly clear to drivers, and to everyone else, that it will take the election of a Labour Government to fix Britain’s roads, just as it will take the election of a Labour Government to fix Britain?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has asked that question, because we have set out our plan very carefully. There is £8.3 billion of extra money to improve the quality of local roads. The Labour party has not backed that plan and has not committed a single penny of money to local roads, so the choice is clear: if people vote Conservative, they get £8.3 billion spent on roads; if they vote Labour, they get none.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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12. What recent discussions he has had with Network Rail on the timeline for introducing bi-mode trains on the midland main line.

Huw Merriman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman)
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A monthly meeting is held with Network Rail and East Midlands Railway to discuss the introduction of the new bi-mode trains. Those meetings include notification of the latest delivery timescales that Hitachi has provided to the operator, and an update on mobilisation plans and related infrastructure upgrades. The aim is for the new trains to be phased into passenger service throughout 2025.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Hollobone
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I welcome the phased introduction of the bi-mode Class 810 Aurora trains on the midland main line through Kettering next year. Can my hon. Friend the Rail Minister confirm that the new trains will be faster, quieter and more environmentally friendly than the current inter-city fleet, and that they will have more seats and luggage space, and better mobile phone signal reception?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I can confirm to my hon. Friend that these fantastic new trains will be not only faster but quieter and more environmentally friendly, as they will be able to take advantage of the increasing extent of electrification that we are delivering on the midland main line. They will have 19% more seats per five-car train, and they are designed for greater comfort and more luggage space. Bearing in mind that my hon. Friend is one of the hardest-working MPs for his constituents, he and they will be delighted that there will be enhanced wi-fi and mobile phone reception, making his productivity even greater.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con)
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13. What recent discussions he has had with Transport for London on the refurbishment of Gallows Corner flyover.

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Guy Opperman)
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I am pleased to say that the Gallows Corner scheme was recently approved at outline business case stage, with over £50 million-worth of backing from the Department for Transport. My officials are liaising with Transport for London to progress the scheme to the next stage of the process, and I look forward to TfL submitting the final business case for approval.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell
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I thank the Minister for his announcement of the funding for a makeover of Gallows Corner flyover, but I fear that we must do better. This is a major junction connecting the eastern side of Greater London with Essex, and it is where the A12 and the A127 join together. My constituents in Romford, and those of the wider Essex region, will be disappointed that we are not getting a fundamental restructuring of the junction to address the safety and congestion issues that I have highlighted for decades. Will he speak to Transport for London, go back to the drawing board, and come back with something better and more permanent that will put the safety of road users first?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I will certainly go away and write to my hon. Friend on his specific point, but I reassure him that we are spending over £50 million to improve that particular junction. If my hon. Friend has concerns about the scope of the works, I urge him to take them up with TfL, because it is for TfL to develop the full business case. It is then submitted to the Department for approval, which we hope will happen later this year.

Sam Tarry Portrait Sam Tarry (Ilford South) (Lab)
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14. What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to prevent the use of fire and rehire practices in the transport industry.

Anthony Browne Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Anthony Browne)
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The Government recently published a statutory code of practice on dismissal and re-engagement. The code will address the practice of fire and rehire, aiming to ensure that it is only ever used as a last resort, and that employees are properly consulted and treated fairly.

Sam Tarry Portrait Sam Tarry
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The TUC has found that since 2020 about 10% of all workers have had to reapply for their job. And let us remember that in 2020 British Airways tried to sack 36,000 staff through fire and rehire, which was stopped only through strike action—the Government took no action. In 2021, Go North West in Manchester threatened the same and, again, industrial action stopped it happening—the Government took no action. In 2022, infamously, P&O Ferries unlawfully sacked 786 staff before replacing them with agency staff—the Government took no action. I implore the Government to outlaw this practice. Rather than just bringing in a code of best practice, they should be taking action to protect British workers.

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne
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After the P&O incident, in which workers were indeed treated totally unacceptably, we introduced a whole range of measures set out in our nine-point charter, including the Seafarers Wages Act 2023, which will come into force this summer. We launched the seafarers charter, to which P&O has now committed, which I very much welcome. The code of practice on dismissal and re-engagement, which will come in before the summer recess, will give workers up to 25% extra compensation if their employers do not abide by it.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)
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The UK minimum wage is £11.44 an hour, but last week, here in Parliament, Peter Hebblethwaite, the chief executive officer of P&O, admitted that it paid seafarers £4.87 an hour. This has been an awful breach of trust. What more will the Minister do to stop companies acting like modern-day pirates of the high seas when it comes to fire and rehire?

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne
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As I mentioned in my previous answer, many of P&O’s practices have indeed been totally unacceptable, including on minimum wage issues. That is why we introduced the Seafarers Wages Act, which will ensure that seafarers operating on regular services in UK waters get the minimum wage. We have also co-ordinated with legislation in France to ensure a minimum wage corridor for all services operating between the UK and France, which will give workers the wages they deserve.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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It is two years since the reprehensible actions of P&O, and Peter Hebblethwaite’s calamitous appearance in Parliament comes four years after Willie Walsh and Álex Cruz, the then CEOs of the International Airlines Group and BA, shamefully threatened thousands of British Airways workers with fire and rehire, having refused Government covid assistance. On Tuesday I asked the Minister of State at the Department for Business and Trade, the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), in this Chamber to confirm whether the new fire and rehire code of practice would have prevented this threat from being made. He could not do so, so I ask this Minister the same question. And if not, why not and what is the point?

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne
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In addition to my earlier answer, I should point out that the P&O case is being investigated by the Insolvency Service, and I await the outcome of that investigation. The point of the code of practice is to ensure that fire and rehire is very much a last resort. If employers breach the code, their employees can get up to 25% greater compensation. The Government have made sure that is the case.

Laurence Robertson Portrait Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Mark Harper Portrait The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Mark Harper)
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Since the last Transport questions, my Department has been getting on with our plans: £143 million for new zero-emission buses; a world-leading sustainable aviation fuel mandate; cutting red tape for small-scale fishing businesses; taking steps to future-proof the £18 billion classic car industry, which supports tens of thousands of skilled jobs; and ensuring that taxpayers can hold local councils to account for how they spend their record funding boost for road resurfacing, made possible by reallocating High Speed 2 funding. All Labour has been able to offer is an unfunded, incoherent rail nationalisation plan, putting the unions in charge, cutting services for passengers and containing anti-car targets, taking us back to square one.

Laurence Robertson Portrait Mr Robertson
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Given that Tewkesbury is one of the fastest growing areas of the country, does the Secretary of State agree that we need to expand the A46 and junction 9 of the M5, and not reduce its capacity or downgrade it in any way? If any agency puts plans to him to downgrade the A46 or junction 9, will he reject those plans?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend—and Gloucestershire neighbour—for raising that issue. He rightly sets out that his constituency is one of the fastest growing. He is a doughty champion for his constituents and I am sure that any agency thinking of downgrading any of his road network would not dare to do so, for fear of the consequences of having to deal with him on the warpath.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab)
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Car insurance costs have increased by 80% since the Secretary of State came into office. If he is intent on ending the war on motorists, what has he done about it?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for advance notice of the question—she wrote to me this morning. I will say a few things. First, she will know that the insurance industry is the responsibility of the Treasury, but it is an important issue for drivers, so I am happy to deal with it. I read her letter with great care, and I notice that it contains no plan and not a single proposal to deal with the cost of insurance. Whereas this week the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), chaired a roundtable with Treasury Ministers and the industry to look at these important issues, which are also in evidence across Europe.

Secondly, having read the letter carefully, I notice that the hon. Lady takes a pop at postcode pricing, which is about pricing according to risk. It seems to me that she is proposing—I am sure she cannot really mean this—to put up insurance costs across the country to reflect the Mayor of London’s failure to grip crime in inner London.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Remember that we are now in topical questions, folks.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh
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Given that the Secretary of State had advance notice of my question, I am afraid that his answer shows how out of touch with reality he has become. Car insurance is not a luxury but a legal requirement, and it is completely unaffordable for millions of drivers. There has been a £219 increase in the average premium in two years. Instead of parroting conspiracy theories about 15-minute cities, why does he not do his job, take action, demand action from regulators, call in the Competition and Markets Authority, and act on soaring insurance premiums?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I will say a couple of things. First, the hon. Lady called for action. My hon. Friend the roads Minister has already been meeting the industry and Treasury Ministers, who are responsible for the industry regulator, so we are already doing that. As I said, this is an issue not just in the UK but elsewhere.

Secondly, as I said, the hon. Lady said in her letter that she was looking at outlawing the ability for insurers to price according to risk in local areas. I am sure that hon. Members noticed that she has not denied that, so they will know that she is proposing for people across the country to face higher costs to reflect the higher crime that we see in inner London, where her Labour Mayor has failed to get a grip.

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock (West Suffolk) (Ind)
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T5. Will the Rail Minister join me in campaigning to save Brandon station, which is a beautiful listed building that has been out of use for years? Greater Anglia, to its credit, is trying to find a solution to ensure that that beautiful building can be put back into use. Will he join me in that campaign and, if his diary allows, join me on 14 June, when we have a public meeting to drive that forward?

Huw Merriman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman)
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I will do everything I can. It is a beautiful example of railway architecture and it must be saved, so I applaud my right hon. Friend’s work. I recently had a conference for leaders in rail, at which I talked to all the train operators and Network Rail about bringing these beautiful buildings back to life for the community. I have met that team as well and will do everything I can to help him.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab)
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T2. It is now exactly four months since the Avanti management were caught laughing at the Government —they are not on their own. They were laughing because they see the performance payments that the Government hand out to them as free money and a joke. When will the Secretary of State take the smile off the faces of the appalling Avanti management by finishing their contract?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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When that incident occurred, the Secretary of State and I made it clear to the teams at Avanti and FirstGroup that that was not acceptable, and their senior management agreed. It was crass and it was wrong. We often talk about Avanti’s performance. The overtime agreement had been withdrawn by ASLEF, which caused the start of the difficulties, but it has since been put back in place. When I looked at the data for the first week of May, there were pretty much 0% cancellations from Avanti induced incidents. Matters are getting better and, where they are better, we should applaud the staff.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
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T6. The condition of local roads is the No. 1 concern raised with me by Aylesbury residents, whether that is potholes, congestion caused by countless utility works, or simply not enough roads to cope with all the new houses that have been built. Will my hon. Friend reassure local residents that it is under this Conservative Government and our excellent local Conservative council that Aylesbury’s roads will improve for my long-suffering constituents?

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Guy Opperman)
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I recently met the council leader, Martin Tett, who is doing a fantastic job, aided by record investment by this Government of £8.3 billion for road resurfacing and our street works consultation, which will crack down on utility organisations and ensure that they work much faster and much better. We are also giving extra funding on an ongoing basis.

Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD)
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T3. Every day that Hammersmith bridge remains closed is a reminder that this Government cannot be trusted to fix even the most basic problems. Do the Conservative Government have any intention of keeping the promise they made in 2019 and fixing Hammersmith bridge?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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The bridge is owned by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which is not a Conservative borough, so I will correct the record there. There are two phases of work: stabilisation to ensure permanent access for pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic—despite not being the owner, the Government have put money into that—and strengthening. We will do everything we can to work with the owners of the bridge to make that happen.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering)  (Con)
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T8. Junction 10A on the A14 is a crucial piece of future roads infrastructure to support Kettering’s housing expansion. Should North Northamptonshire Council approve the relevant planning application this coming Monday, will my hon. Friend the roads Minister reconfirm his commitment to give the proper direction this project needs to proceed at pace, to visit the site with me and to arrange for me to meet with National Highways to ensure progress?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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Yes, yes and yes.

Chris Webb Portrait Chris Webb  (Blackpool South)  (Lab)
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T4.   Blackpool is experiencing the scourge of unlicensed taxis in our treasured seaside resort. Uber and similar companies, which have no operating licence in Blackpool, are allowing passengers to use their unlicensed taxis uninsured, creating a real public safety risk. These unlicensed taxis are parking in local ranks illegally, taking fares from our hard-working, rule-abiding Blackpool taxi drivers. What is the Minister doing to tackle these unlicensed drivers, and will he meet me to discuss this issue in my constituency?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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May I first welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place? He is a worthy winner and I am delighted to see him in the House. I wish him good fortune. The Government have published updated taxi and private hire vehicle best practice guidance for licensing authorities in England. I will write to the hon. Gentleman in detail and set out the particular points, and then we will see whether a meeting is required thereafter.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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In Horsham we have a significant problem with car racing on specific stretches of road. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a role for speed cameras in deterring those activities and the real risks they represent?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising the important matter of road safety. He is right that there is a role for speed cameras. Decisions for enforcing speed limits are for the police and local agencies. I know he has raised the issue with them. I hope our exchange today will continue to put pressure on them, that the campaign he is running to ensure safer roads for his constituents is successful, and that the police take note.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Andrew Bridgen—not here.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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I was pleased to have been told late last year that Haughley and Ely north junctions would be funded, but I have since become frustrated by the slow progress. I hear all the right noises from the Department, but when I talk to Greater Anglia and Network Rail, all I hear is frustration at the slow progress. Will the Secretary of State promise me that we will get on with these projects, which are crucial to Ipswich, Suffolk and East Anglia in general?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I can give that assurance to my hon. Friend. I think his Labour opponent stated that the Conservatives had not promised to deliver this project. In October, the Prime Minister set out that we would deliver the rail junction at Ely and Haughley. It is a project that the Department is keen on, as it is good for freight, and for our freight growth target. I will meet my hon. Friend and his colleagues who support the project to show them the steps that we are taking to get this vital project under way.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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The Secretary of State will be aware that the courts yesterday awarded £25 million of compensation to 1.4 million passengers who were overcharged for rail fares between 2015 and 2017 by Stagecoach South Western Trains, the predecessor franchise to South Western Railway. Will he ensure that affected passengers are not left out of pocket, and get automatic redress, rather than having to make an historical claim?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I have been meeting the operators to discuss the matter. I am happy to write to her, setting out the exact conclusion of those conversations. I am always keen to ensure that passenger and consumer interests are protected and preserved, so I will write to her.

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con)
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I thank the Secretary of State and the Rail Minister for their support for upgrades to Pokesdown station in my constituency, not least the improvements to the lifts, but the project has run into a few technical and financial problems; will the Secretary of State or the Minister update the House on it?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I promised my right hon. Friend from this Dispatch Box that the project would be delivered, and I continue to give him that assurance. I am sorry that there have been those delays. This week, I spoke to the team at some length about the station. My right hon. Friend knows that I will visit him at the station, and I will have some more concrete news for him then.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
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How reliable are the key performance indicators that the train operators are quoting, which the Rail Minister mentioned earlier? The Disability News Service reports that train companies are sending unreliable statistics from freelance mystery shoppers who pretend to be disabled and give overly positive feedback about the experience of disabled passengers. Does he share my concern about that, and what can he do about it?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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Data from mystery shoppers, as the hon. Gentleman calls them, cannot be used unless those individuals have the disabilities that they claim to, but there are wider mystery shopping experiences that are undertaken. I will happily write to him—in fact, I will meet him, seeing as he is such a great man—and take him through the steps that are taken into account. I also thank him very much for doing what he always does, which is raising that matter with me last night, so that we could discuss it in advance.

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con)
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The reopening of Aldridge train station will finally give my constituents the railway service that they badly need and deserve. I wish to place on record my thanks to the Minister’s Department, the Government, former Mayor Andy Street and the West Midlands Combined Authority for their support in securing funding for the project through the city region sustainable transport settlement. Will my hon. Friend help me to continue to nudge Network Rail and others to progress this to completion in 2027?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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Yes. It is a brilliant £30 million project, with 40 car parking spaces, which my right hon. Friend has been instrumental in making happen. I will, I hope, meet the new Mayor, whom I congratulate, to ensure that he delivers the project for 2027, as the fantastic Andy Street promised.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
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More people are killed by cows and lightning than by dangerous cyclists, whereas around five people a day are killed on our roads by motor vehicles—a level that has flatlined under this Government. When will the Transport Secretary publish the long-overdue strategic framework for road safety?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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The Secretary of State took a decision on road safety yesterday, so clearly we are addressing all these matters on an ongoing basis. I addressed the issue in a Westminster Hall debate recently, but I will write to the hon. Member with more detail.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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The Labour Mayor of South Yorkshire has been given colossal sums of money by this Government. Sadly, it appears that he chooses to spend it on Sheffield supertrams and Sheffield’s transport infrastructure, not Doncaster’s. Will the Minister send a clear message to him that he should spend this money not only wisely, but across the combined authority, not just in Sheffield?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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It is obviously up to mayors to decide how to spend the money, but I would expect them to spend it fairly across the entire region that they represent. Given that fantastic Members of Parliament such as my hon. Friend will hold them to account, voters in his constituency and across the combined authority area will hopefully make the right decision, when they get the chance.

Allan Dorans Portrait Allan Dorans (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (SNP)
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New evidence shows that Ofgem’s targeted charging review has led to significant increases in public electric vehicle charger standing charge rates, which are passed on to the consumer. In one site in northern Scotland, costs have increased from £315 to £809 per day. What will the Minister do to regulate the cost of electric vehicle charging nationally?

Anthony Browne Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Anthony Browne)
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I am the Minister responsible for electrical vehicles. The cost of charging is a concern to many EV drivers. On standing charges for charge point operators, I met with the chief executive of Ofgem, the regulator, earlier this week to discuss that exact issue. It is one of the things that Ofgem is looking at.

Paul Howell Portrait Paul Howell (Sedgefield) (Con)
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How is the Minister working to improve the supply of rolling stock orders, to give customers a better experience, and importantly, to give companies such as Hitachi orders to bid for?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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As an example, just yesterday an invitation to negotiate was sent out by Southeastern to five train manufacturers, one of which is Hitachi, which is so well supported and championed by my hon. Friend. We have plans over the coming years for 2,000 rolling stock orders, worth a total of £3.6 billion. I hope that, with our support, the benefits for train manufacturing supply chains will continue.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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Road safety organisations and driving instructors are concerned to ensure that young drivers have some experience of night driving. Does the Minister intend to ensure that night driving becomes part of the test?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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The hon. Gentleman knows that the test has got more difficult and onerous for individuals; we have made it much harder to pass in the first place. We look at all aspects of post-test passing on an ongoing basis, but I will take the matter up with him personally.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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I was grateful to the roads Minister for his commitment in an earlier answer to working with us in Buckinghamshire to find a solution to the crisis created by Arriva withdrawing bus services, but does he agree that companies that have been all too happy to take a taxpayer subsidy have a moral duty to maintain those services or give the money back?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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We certainly expect those companies to engage with the local authority to ensure the provision of alternative service. That is what we intend to ensure happens.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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The Government recently announced yet another consultation support mechanism for the production of sustainable aviation fuel. Meanwhile, other countries across the world are getting on with producing SAF at scale. When will the Government get the mechanism in place, and will they meet their unambitious target of five SAF plants by 2025?

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne
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On 25 April, we published the SAF mandate, requiring 10% SAF across the aviation industry by 2030, and announced the revenue certainty mechanism consultation. It is an eight-week consultation. We have been inviting the whole industry to respond to it. We have to ensure that we get it right, and we will produce the final result very shortly after that.

Ian Levy Portrait Ian Levy (Blyth Valley) (Con)
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Moor Farm roundabout in Cramlington is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, many of my residents have told me that they actively avoid it. That is exactly why I had the roundabout cleaned and re-marked recently; however, more work needs to be done. Will my hon. Friend meet me to discuss a more permanent solution, and the progress that I have made with Northumberland County Council and National Highways?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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As someone who knows that roundabout very well, I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend, and to ensure that the good work that Northumberland County Council is doing to upgrade and improve the area continue.