Transport Links

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 13th February 2013.

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Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton 11:30 am, 13th February 2013

What steps he is taking to improve transport links between Scotland and England.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I welcome the recent announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on the planned extension of HS2 to Manchester and Leeds. Journey times between Scotland and London will be significantly reduced as a result.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

Does the Minister agree that there is a strange irony in the fact that HS2 will bring our two nations closer together yet the Scottish Government are intent on driving a wedge between them and pushing them further apart?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

My hon. Friend is quite right to point out the irony. Most policies pursued by the Scottish National party are about breaking up Britain, but on this issue it appears to want to bring Britain closer together.

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie SNP Chief Whip, SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Minister’s answers simply will not do. If he was serious about improving transport links between Scotland and England, HS2, which is a massive investment, would not start in London and grind to a halt halfway through England in Manchester or Leeds; it would carry on to Glasgow and Edinburgh along the west and east coasts of Scotland. I ask him to go one better than the Department for Transport and tell us whether the Government have even a time scale for developing a plan for completing HS2 to Scotland.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

What this Government are doing is engaging with the Scottish Government in a discussion, and at the moment we are waiting to hear from them.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, National Policy Statements Sub-Committee, Chair, Justice Committee

Does my right hon. Friend recognise the importance to transport links of dualling the A1, and will he continue to press the case with Scottish Ministers and colleagues in the UK Government?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that the A1 will become a motorway to Newcastle. He made it clear, I think in response to my right hon. Friend, that the Department for Transport would look at the case for dualling the A1 to the Scottish border.

Photo of Russell Brown Russell Brown Labour, Dumfries and Galloway

As chair of the all-party west coast main line group, I wrote to a Scottish Government Minister to ask what they were prepared to do with regard to investment for the HS2 route starting from the north. Is it not irresponsible that the Scottish Government will not answer that question on HS2, even though two city councils—Edinburgh and Glasgow—will discuss it?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman, particularly in his capacity as chair of the all-party west coast main line group, has not had a response from the Scottish Government. As I indicated in my earlier answer, the UK Government are waiting for a response from the Scottish Government. We have made it absolutely clear that we want to work with them to ensure that the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom benefit from HS2.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I agree with earlier questioners and the Minister that HS2, if it is to go ahead, will be exceedingly important to both the north of England and transport links between Scotland and England. Can I therefore have his assurance that he and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will argue formidably for that in Cabinet and encourage the Government to start HS2, if it goes ahead, in the north?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I appreciate my right hon. Friend’s question. As always, she has taken a keen interest in Scotland, but she knows as well as I do that the Government’s position is that HS2 will start in the south.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour, Glasgow Central

Connectivity between Scotland and London is crucial to Scotland’s economic future. Can the Minister explain why, despite ongoing conversations between the UK and Scottish Governments, Scots are still in the dark about whether we will actually see a new line in Scotland?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I do not accept that Scots are in the dark with regard to a new line to Scotland. The UK Government have made it perfectly clear that their aspiration is to achieve high-speed rail to Scotland. We want to work very closely with the Scottish Government and we look forward to their making specific proposals.