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High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 26th June 2013.

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Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell 6:02 pm, 26th June 2013

I am glad for the extra minute, but my hon. Friend knows that he is making those figures up. He is including the contingency, which will not necessarily be spent. The Secretary of State has also made it clear that £5 billion will be spent on rolling stock, which could go on the existing west coast and east coast main lines. My hon. Friend knows that he is being rather naughty with the figures.

Returning to the advantages for Leeds, over the past decade Leeds has been a growth city. A great deal of business has come to Leeds. There are things that we need. I lead on transport issues within the team of Leeds MPs. Leeds is crying out for its transport network to be improved, because it is worse than it was in the 1950s. We want to move forward with the tram-train system.

None of those things will happen unless there is investment in our northern cities. That is one reason why HS2 is so important. There are huge commercial opportunities in Leeds. There is also a willing and able work force in and around Yorkshire that can be drawn to Leeds. We have got to get away from the idea of its being a Leeds to London link. The most important benefit to Leeds—yes, we will be able to get to London within an hour and 20 minutes—will be the Javelin trains, which will service a wide area of the Leeds city region and will link up, if I can get a tram-train system put in, with the Leeds-Bradford International airport, which is vital to the economy of Yorkshire. Thanks to lobbying by the airport and local MPs, there are now three British Airways flights a day to Heathrow, which dock at terminal 5. The Javelin trains will cover the wider area, so that people in south Yorkshire and west Yorkshire will be able to get to Leeds-Bradford airport in minimum time, get airside and get off in New York, San Francisco, Australia or wherever they are going. HS2 will open that up. It is nonsensical to say that we need to discuss where we are going with the airline industry first before we talk about HS2—they complement each other.

In April, we came to the House during the recess to reflect on the death of Margaret Thatcher. Many Members on the Government Benches gave speeches about how she was a visionary, and how she led and did what she thought was right. I ask my hon. Friends to reflect on the great lady’s comments in 1986, on the opening of the M25:

“Now some people are saying that the road is too small, even that it’s a disaster. I must say I can’t stand those who carp and criticise when they ought to be congratulating Britain on a magnificent achievement and beating the drum for Britain all over the world.”

I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister remembers the quote. She went on to say:

“And to those who say, ‘we always build our roads too small’ we can only point out that at some of the planning enquires those who object to the new road say that our traffic forecasts are excessive, and that improvements to existing roads would be enough. Fortunately the planning inspectors and successive Secretaries of State have not accepted that viewpoint.”

We can see the comparison with the high-speed rail network, which I believe is vital for my home city of Leeds and for the growth of Britain.