Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes, Conservative)
I certainly agree with the hon. Lady’s point. It is vital for growth and economic development that we should have direct services. However, the system is so complex that there is no incentive for existing railway companies to expand. They can pile people on to existing services, but where is the incentive to take the commercial risk and develop a new service? We must do something to improve the situation.
Finally, I want to return to the vexed subject of the Humber bridge tolls. Members will appreciate that in his autumn statement the Chancellor halved the tolls. That is a great boost to the economy of the local area. Sadly, there is a fly in the ointment: the four local authorities have to reach agreement, because otherwise legislation is required. Three of the local authorities, under a mixture of political control, have agreed that the underwriting of the remaining debt should be split equally between them. Unfortunately, the leader of North East Lincolnshire council has taken a rather obstinate and petulant position, saying that that should be divided according to population.
I have written to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Norman Baker—the two Ministers who conducted the recent review. However, may I urge those on the Front Bench to pass on my concerns to both those Ministers and all concerned, and ask that whatever pressure is possible be applied, so that this matter can be resolved? After 25 years of campaigning we now have the opportunity to give the local economy a real boost, and give easier and cheaper access to those who have to cross the bridge to obtain health treatment. Now is the time to do that. I urge Ministers to do all they can to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.