Heathrow

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 11th November 2008.

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Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Labour, Glasgow South 6:33 pm, 11th November 2008

Will the hon. Gentleman mind if I do not? I have only five minutes left, and he may have his chance to give a winding-up speech later, although I shall not be present to hear him, as I said.

Further to the point that I made to the shadow Transport Secretary, the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, I must say that with so many regional flights to Scottish airports from Heathrow, it is amazing that the Conservative plans for high-speed rail do not include running it north of the border. On a Thursday night, when I leave this place, I should be more than happy to take a high-speed train to Glasgow, but it seems that the Conservatives do not have enough confidence in their planning ability or, indeed, in their electoral prospects north of the border to invest in a high-speed line to Glasgow.

The Conservative party knows how long it took to get the Crossrail Act 2008 on to the statute book. It took three years of parliamentary time, and we still have not started laying any lines and the first Crossrail services will not start until 2017. If the Conservative party is truly serious about relieving congestion at Heathrow, it will have to come up with a solution that is slightly more short term or medium term than a high-speed rail network, because how long will a 300-mile or 400-mile network take to plan and to go through the hybrid Bill process over goodness knows how many years? That is before we have laid a single piece of line. We are talking about decades before a high-speed rail network would be up and running, and the idea that Heathrow and its capacity can wait that long is fantasy politics.

I strongly suspect a deep level of cynicism from the Conservative party that is more about winning seats to the west of London at the next general election than it is about any concern at all for climate change. I have spoken off the record to several Conservative MPs—including at least one member of the party's Front-Bench team, although they were not from its Transport team—who agree that the Conservative policy of opposing the third runway is disastrous. If the Conservative party goes into the next election with that commitment in its manifesto, it will have proved that it is not serious about growing this country's economy.

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