Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
The Government's first priority is reducing the budget deficit left us by the previous Administration, and I am determined that the Department for Transport should play its full part in that process. Against that backdrop, my Department is focused on building a modern and sustainable transport system that will contribute both to future economic growth and to the achievement of the Government's climate change targets.
I have asked Lord Mawhinney to let us have his preliminary conclusions by the end of July, and I will be happy to consult the hon. Lady's local authority once I have received that report from him.
As Ministers work out how best to transfer travel from plane to train, where that is possible, will they prioritise talks with European colleagues to make sure that the European rail network works and with colleagues in this country to make sure that high-speed rail will allow people to go through the capital without having to change trains?
I thank my hon. Friend, who makes a very important point. Now that we have made it clear that there will be no third runway at Heathrow airport, modal shift from air to rail becomes crucially important, including for journeys through to Europe. I have asked HS2 Ltd to look at the options and the costs of providing a direct link from the proposed HS2 to the existing high-speed rail network to the Channel tunnel.
I cannot stress enough the importance of the Tyne and Wear metro to the people of the north-east-in respect of the economy, the environment and the general quality of life. The previous Government pledged £350 million to upgrade the scheme, so will the Minister acknowledge the importance of the Tyne and Wear metro and tell us whether he is going to honour that pledge?
I do acknowledge the importance of the Tyne and Wear metro, just as I acknowledge the difficult financial position the Government are in. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman wait for the Treasury statement later this morning.
My constituents do not want the pollution that additional runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick would entail, but they do want shorter queues, fewer delays and better service. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are plenty of ways of achieving that through improving operations at those airports?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend. That is why the Secretary of State has established a taskforce to look into the ways we can make good on our promise to make Heathrow better. We have rejected a third runway because of the huge environmental damage it would cause, but there is more we can do to improve the regulatory structure and we are bringing forward legislation on that to incentivise the airports to focus on the quality of service for passengers. We need to keep security measures under review so that passengers are kept safe and we can mitigate the hassle that those measures cause. We need to work with the stakeholders and the airlines to get the right solution to integrate high-speed rail with Heathrow, to provide a viable alternative to having many short-haul flights and to relieve overcrowding problems at the airport.
What is happening about the sell-off of BAA, its monopoly-particularly north of the border-and the imposition on passengers, especially in Glasgow, of charges for being picked up after their holiday flights, and the requirement to walk for an exorbitant distance? It is an absolute disgrace, and it is time that such companies were brought to book and made to compete.
The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to a consumer issue which, I know, greatly concerns his constituents and many other users of that airport. It is just the type of issue that we hope our new airport regulation Bill will address. We intend to give airports stronger incentives to look after and respond to their customers.
The proceedings of the Competition Commission in relation to the ownership of various airports around the country are a matter for the commission, but we have often highlighted the benefits that diversity of ownership in the United Kingdom airport sector can yield to customers.
Is the Minister aware that Arriva buses recently introduced a completely new network and timetable in Milton Keynes? At a public meeting last Friday many of my constituents, especially pensioners, told me that they had been greatly inconvenienced by the changes, and that they had not been properly consulted. Will the Minister do all that he can to ensure that operators consult their passengers properly before introducing such radical changes?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. We ought to ensure that bus companies work with the grain of local people's interests. We are considering the period within which bus companies must give notification of new timetables.
Will the Minister reassure us that in considering any spending review relating to funds for the Tyne and Wear metro, he will take account of the need to preserve an existing structure which-unlike many other capital projects-is more than 30 years old, desperately requires reinvigoration, and is vital to the community in Newcastle and throughout the north-east?
As I said a moment ago to Mr Hepburn, we understand the importance of the Tyne and Wear metro to the area. I suggest that the hon. Lady wait for the statement that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will make later this morning.
May I urge the Secretary of State to accept the recommendations of the North review and, as a matter of urgency, present proposals for a reduction in the drink-drive limit from 80 to 50 mg?
Sir Peter North has delivered a comprehensive report, containing 51 recommendations, on issues relating to driving under the influence of drink or drugs. The Government will consult other Departments on the implications of the recommendations, and we will announce our position in due course.
In April, when Jarvis was placed in administration, Network Rail cancelled millions of pounds of track renewal contracts on the east coast main line. We have recently been reminded of the Potters Bar rail accident. That track renewal work must go ahead. Will the Minister arrange for me to meet Iain Coucher-along with Members representing other constituencies where many workers have been made redundant as a result of the cuts-so that we can discuss with him the timetable for reinstating the track renewal contracts with other companies?
The Office of Rail Regulation is responsible for ensuring that the railway is managed safely, and that works that are required for its safety go ahead. The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that shortly before Question Time, Network Rail announced that Iain Coucher would be stepping down from his role. For that reason it would not be practical for me to arrange a meeting with him, but I should be happy to try to facilitate a meeting with another appropriate representative of Network Rail.
I can give that confirmation. We support the current protections of runway alternation. We defeated Labour's proposals for mixed mode when we were in opposition, and we will not revive them now that we are in government.
We are looking at that issue at the moment. I think there are considerable benefits to be gained from a more open approach to timetabling, and I would be delighted to have a discussion with the hon. Gentleman if he wants to give me further indications of his ideas on this, so that we can ensure we get the maximum benefits for passengers.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point, but vehicle recognition technology is now moving forward. I have recently been in police vehicles where we have been able to pick up where other vehicles have not had MOTs and insurance, and I am asking the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on this, whom I met yesterday, to clamp down as hard as possible.
Brake, the road safety charity, has said that cutting Government funding for speed cameras will lead to blood on our roads. Why is the Minister cutting the funding for them, given that they would raise revenue during the forthcoming age of austerity, and how is Wakefield council supposed to put new ones in when it has just had a £1 million cut to its road safety grant?
Local authorities have the powers to spend the money as they wish, and if they wish to spend it on more speed cameras that is entirely within their remit. There are other ways in which lives can be saved. I have looked at what Brake says, but I disagree. Such cameras should not be a cash cow. This should not be determined by issues to do with raising tax. It should be about safety; that is the important thing.
May I welcome my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to his new position? Does he agree with me in principle that those people whose homes have been blighted by Labour's preferred route for high-speed rail should be fully compensated, rather than at the 85% of value as proposed by Labour?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. One of the first decisions I took in my new post was to extend the consultation on the exceptional hardship scheme. That consultation closes today and we will publish our conclusions in due course.