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Confidence in the Secretary of State for Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:03 pm on 19th June 2018.

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Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 3:03 pm, 19th June 2018

On the right hon. Gentleman’s first point, that would depend on when the Bill could make progress and whether it would take effect in time. It is difficult to understand how the proposed compensation regime would interact with the special compensation regime relating to the implementation of the new timetable. However, on the right hon. Gentleman’s broader point about consequential loss, he will appreciate that that is hard to prove. I remember from my days as a corporate lawyer that consequential loss in contracts is one of the toughest things to prove. I am not saying that he is incorrect, but it would merit further consultation and I am happy to sit down and discuss the matter with him. If we can come to an agreement, hopefully the Liberal Democrats will support my private Member’s Bill.

A point that is often made to me is that many commuters do not have a good enough choice. On some lines, the operator is the only game in town, and where that happens, it is incumbent on the operator to do a significantly better job at getting on top of problems when they arise. My right hon. Friend Sir Michael Fallon made the point that the Secretary of State may need additional powers at times of crisis to direct what needs to happen at certain stations, and the House should consider that. I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has said to me, both privately and in this House, that he is committed to improving the situation at Hitchin and Harpenden stations once we have got past the current difficulties—[Interruption.] I can see the Rail Minister nodding in approval, which is always good. My constituents—I was nervous about this before I came to speak this afternoon—are not particularly interested in rhetoric; they are interested in making sure these changes are introduced in the right way to provide real practical improvements to them and their lives. That is what I, as the local Member of Parliament and with the Government, will hopefully be providing.