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High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:13 pm on 26th June 2013.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 3:13 pm, 26th June 2013

I think every Member of Parliament realises, given the present state of journalism in this country, that if a phrase is presented to one and one does not demur, it is quite legitimate to say that that is what one agrees with. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point.

I hope that Ministers will agree with Labour’s vision of a new railway line that is fully integrated with the existing network, and whose fares are fully regulated. That is the line for which we will all be paying, and its use must therefore be affordable for many people, not just for a few at the richer end of society.

It is disappointing that Ministers have so far shown little interest in ensuring that this significant investment delivers real opportunities, especially for our young people. Labour has made it clear that every £1 billion of investment in the scheme should deliver 1,000 apprenticeships, and I hope that the Government will make the same commitment to apprenticeships and to our young people. Ministers must learn the lessons of the Thameslink procurement. Those trains are now to be built in Germany. It is perfectly possible, within EU rules, to ensure that public investment delivers jobs and apprenticeships where they are desperately needed, here in Britain. Every other EU country manages to do the equivalent through its own train procurement. The new line must deliver British jobs and growth, not only after its completion but during its construction, and that must include the manufacturing of the trains.

It was a Labour Government who first set out the ambition for a new high-speed north-south railway line to address the capacity issue on our rail network while also cutting journey times between our towns and cities, and the case for making this scheme a reality remains strong. Indeed, it is all the more necessary at a time when the Government’s economic failure has meant a failure to deliver the growth that the country so desperately needs. The progress made over the last three years, since Ministers inherited the project, has been disappointing, but it retains cross-party support. We will support the Bill today, but we urge the Government to get on with the hybrid Bill as soon as possible. We want to see the enthusiasm and commitment from Ministers that is necessary to make a major project on this scale become a reality.