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Transport

– in the House of Commons at 3:48 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Votes in this debate

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 4:18 pm, 5th February 2020

I beg to move,

That this House
acknowledges that the UK’s transport emissions have not substantially fallen since 1990 and have increased since 2010;
and calls on the Government to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the substantial majority of transport emissions by 2030, to decarbonise the UK’s entire bus network, to invest in an electric vehicle charging network that can support the majority of vehicles on the UK’s roads by 2030, to cut bus and rail fares, to increase public transport patronage, to provide funding for cycling and walking, including investment in cycleways and grants for ebikes, to introduce a network of clean air zones to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, and to bring aviation emissions within the UK’s climate targets.

The fires blazing in Australia are a catastrophe for that nation and its people, but it is not the only country at risk from such ravages. The burning infernos are a reminder of the new landscape that the climate crisis is creating across the world. The challenge is no longer abstract but a very real and devastating reality. I am proud, therefore, of the Labour party’s pledge to put tackling the climate crisis at the heart of our transport and wider economic policy. It is both right and necessary, not least because since 2010 the transport policies of Tory Governments have done so much to undermine sustainable transport.

The Government have failed to provide leadership on climate change. Those are not my words, but those of the former Conservative rail and environment Minister Claire O’Neill. She also said that the Government were “miles off track” in the setting of a positive agenda for the COP26 United Nations summit in Glasgow, and that “promises” of action were

“not close to being met.”

The Prime Minister’s pledge yesterday to make the UK a world leader in the tackling of climate change is beyond risible. This is not year zero. The Tories have been in power for a decade, and some of us have not forgotten the last 10 years of broken promises and empty pledges on transport. Here are a few.

The “Road to Zero” transport decarbonisation strategy had no money or political will behind it, so is barely worth the paper it was written on. There have been vast cuts in bus funding and services; huge cuts in rail electrification programmes; support for airport expansion; and major road expansion programmes. Those actions are a matter of fact and public record. They are not the actions of a Government who are serious about tackling the climate crisis; they are the actions of a Government without a relevant transport policy.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth

Will my hon. Friend contrast that with the approach being taken by the Welsh Labour Government? In my constituency, for example, they are supporting the building of a new station east of Cardiff, St Mellons Parkway, with funds working to ensure that more people can have access to public transport—green public transport —in the east of the city.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The Welsh Government are taking a serious issue more seriously, and they are to be commended for their work.

What is more, transport is the most emitting sector of the UK economy. It is responsible for more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, and that is excluding international shipping and aviation. It is also the worst-performing sector when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, which are higher now than in 2010. Progress has been poor in comparison with that of other sectors: transport emissions were just 2% lower in 2016-17 than 1990-1991, compared with 60% for energy supply and 30% for businesses more generally.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Conservative, East Hampshire

Would the hon. Gentleman care to comment on what happened to transport emissions under the Labour Government in the 10 years following 1997, before the financial crash?

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

We are dealing with 2020 and the risible record of this Government. I know that a number of Conservative Members think that the world started in 2020, but the Government have been in power since 2010, and they should take that on board.

The facts that I have given compound the Government’s depressing lack of ambition. Their failure to reduce transport carbon emissions and act on the crisis is a huge missed opportunity to lead the world in developing and manufacturing low-carbon technologies. Yesterday’s announcement of a 2035 phase-out of the production of petrol and diesel cars highlights the poverty of vision for the climate and for industry. Electric vehicles will be as cheap as diesel and petrol cars by the mid-2020s. It makes no sense to go on selling polluting vehicles that will be more expensive to buy and run into the 2030s. In its alternative strategy, Labour has set out a clear pathway to achieving significant reductions in climate emissions at the same time as reducing regional and social inequalities and improving the quality of life.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

Does my hon. Friend agree that under Labour’s plans we would decarbonise our transport, but would also ensure that there was an exclusive network so that disabled people could have a good quality of life and could have access to our public transport network?

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend has made a very good point. Access to public transport should be treated as a right, so that disabled people can travel spontaneously as other people can. Many of our policies say exactly that,.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I will give way one more time, but then I really must crack on.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Would he accept that the UK has done more than practically any other country in the world to cut its carbon dioxide emissions since 1990, whereas China, for example, is greatly expanding its coal extraction and coal power? What is the Labour party’s message to China in the run-up to the conference?

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

My message is that our country is about to miss its own targets for the fourth and fifth carbon targets, and that is an appalling record. That is on the Government’s own statistics, so we really need to focus on getting our own house in order.

Successful bus networks are key to achieving a modal shift from private to public transport and reducing carbon emissions. A fully loaded double decker bus could take up to 75 cars off the road. We are hearing references now to buses from the Conservative Benches, inspired no doubt by the Prime Minister’s painting of cardboard buses, but there needs to be more than that. Under this Government, bus funding has been slashed in real terms by £645 million a year, and more than 3,000 routes have been cut or withdrawn. Fares have soared at more than two and a half times the rate of wage increases, while bus patronage in England outside London has fallen by 10%.

Labour has committed to extending the power to franchise bus services to all local authorities in England and to overturning the ban on new municipal companies. That would allow for the cross-subsidisation of services, smart and integrated ticketing, and London-style price caps. My hon. Friend Chi Onwurah remarked the other day that a £1.50 bus fare takes her four stops on the West Road in Newcastle. I endure the same thing: a £2 bus ride from my home in Middlesbrough to the bus station a short distance away is truly ridiculous when people can cross this wonderful capital city very economically indeed.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I will give way one more time, but then I must make progress.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

I want to give my hon. Friend a London example. We have the 70 and 94 buses in Acton and Chiswick, and on Friday they became electric, despite the massive cuts to the Transport for London support grant that this Government have placed on our London Mayor. Many people in London are worried that our capital will be punished for voting Labour. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need more joined-up thinking and more funding if we are to decarbonise transport?

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I agree entirely. It is remarkable that London is the only city of any comparison that is without a central Government grant. Some of the measures that we would be taking, were we in government, would have gone some way to addressing that. Madam Deputy Speaker, I will not be taking any more interventions. I am very much aware that a great number of people want to speak in the debate, so if colleagues will bear with me, I will carry on.

We said that we would totally reverse the cuts made to bus services since 2010, then invest the same amount again. That would allow for 3,000-plus route cuts to be reversed, and for the expansion of new services through the redirection of funds currently being channelled into road building. We could then provide free travel for the under-25s in the areas that own or regulate their buses, in order to address generational inequalities, encourage lifelong public transport use and help reverse the long-term downward trend in bus patronage in England outside London. Electrifying 35,000 buses by 2030 would reduce their emissions by 72% as well as boosting manufacturing. However, progress has been painfully slow over the past decade, and I wonder whether the Secretary of State might furnish us with any proposals in that regard.

Similarly, we have seen rail fares rise by 40% since 2010. In contrast, fares in Germany were cut by 10% at the start of this year to encourage more people to travel by train in order to cut emissions. It is frankly absurd that UK rail fares have risen so excessively while the cost of short-haul flights remains low, with taxes broadly frozen. That is why we pledged in the election campaign to reduce fares by 33% by using part of the revenue brought in by vehicle excise duty. This financial offer to commuters would have encouraged the shift from car usage to public transport that will be essential in the coming years if we are to be successful in decarbonising the transport sector.

However, capital investment in our railways will also be required to reverse the electrification cancellations that we have seen under the Conservatives. Despite the clear environmental and performance benefits of rail electrification, the Tories cancelled the promised electrification on the midland main line, on the line between Windermere and Oxenholme, on TransPennine and on parts of the Great Western route.

Rail freight is a low carbon transport choice, emitting 76% less carbon than the equivalent road journey, and has massive potential to lower UK transport emissions, so I regret that the Government have done so little to encourage it. For example, the TransPennine upgrade has no new capacity for freight. Labour’s policy of bringing the railways into public ownership would allow a long-term strategic approach to investment, delivering a more consistent approach that would better support UK industry and help to decarbonise our railways.

I welcome Eurostar’s announcement this week that full direct rail services from London to Amsterdam will begin on 30 April, with direct services to Rotterdam beginning on 18 May. More rail links between the UK and Europe are vital to reducing carbon emissions from short-haul aviation, and I will work with EU colleagues to promote better rail connectivity.

Ahead of the Budget next month, I remind the Transport Secretary and the Chancellor that we cannot road build our way out of the climate crisis. New roads quickly fill up with cars, and “predict and provide” is a 20th-century concept. Ministers claimed that the road investment strategy for motorways and major A roads between 2015 to 2020 would revolutionise the network. In fact, one in three of the projects has been cancelled or delayed, and the strategy is in complete disarray. Road spending should focus on providing more capacity for sustainable transport, such as provisions for bus priority and integrated transport schemes. We need to develop a more holistic approach to transport funding that is geographically rebalanced across the UK.

Labour committed to repurposing vehicle excise duty to establish a sustainable transport fund. Such a fund could provide £550 million a year for walking and cycling routes, £1.4 billion a year to fund free bus travel for under-25s when bus services are re-regulated, £1.3 billion a year to restore the 3,000 bus services lost and deliver an additional 3,000 on top, and £500 million a year to fund local road improvements and maintenance. Most journeys start and end on local roads, which are also used by cyclists and pedestrians, so fixing potholes and better maintaining those roads and pavements should be a priority.

Tackling road transport emissions requires an enormous investment in electric vehicles to see a just transition of the UK’s fleet of road vehicles.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I am aware that many people want to speak, so if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will carry on.

Labour set 2030 as the date for ending the sale of new diesel and petrol cars. The Government’s new target of 2035 is not ambitious enough for our climate, our industries and our motorists. It is also deeply worrying to hear that the Government may be planning to scrap the £3,500 electric car grant when it expires next month. Perhaps the Transport Secretary can confirm whether that is the case when he comes to the Dispatch Box.

Electric vehicles are already cheaper over the lifetime of a vehicle, and up-front costs are likely to fall sharply by the mid-2020s. It makes sense for the supporting industry and for reducing emissions that motorists should transition soonest. Last year, Labour announced plans to invest £3.6 billion in a vast expansion of the UK’s electric vehicle charging network and to offer 2.5 million interest-free loans for the purchase of electric vehicles, saving buyers up to £5,000. Furthermore, our plans included the introduction of a targeted scrappage scheme to replace cars over 10 years old powered by fossil fuels with new electric cars. We would also have put 30,000 electric cars on UK streets through publicly owned community car sharing clubs. In contrast, the Government have repeatedly slashed EV subsidies and have failed to invest any of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure fund announced in 2017. Not only is that preventing the UK from making necessary emission reductions, but it leaves our motor manufacturing industries lagging behind foreign counterparts.

In the midst of an air pollution crisis, active travel remains massively underfunded. The Government are predicted to miss their own cycling targets, achieving just a third of the 800 million extra trips that they hoped for by 2025, and much of the growth in cycling is limited to London. Labour set out plans to boost cycling and walking and to make England one of the most cycling and walking friendly places in the world, making our towns and cities cleaner and greener, and transforming the environment, travel opportunities and quality of life right across the country. The emissions-reducing plan would also have addressed the local air pollution crisis and the epidemic of ill health caused by sedentary lifestyles. This investment in walking and cycling would, for the first time, have made active travel a genuine option for the many, not just the brave.

The plan included: doubling cycling for adults and children; building 5,000 km of cycleways; creating safe cycling and walking routes to 10,000 primary schools; delivering universal affordable access to bicycles and grants for e-bike purchases; and providing training for all primary school children and their parents, extending training to secondary schools and making training available for all adults.

Aviation emissions are a particular issue: in the UK, they have more than doubled since 1990, while emissions from the economy as a whole have fallen by around 40%. The Government plan to build a third runway at Heathrow. According to the Department for Transport’s projections for Heathrow expansion, the UK’s legally binding targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 will be missed. The Government should rule out any expansion that is not compatible with our climate targets. Who are we expanding airports for?

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I have already indicated that I will not give way because so many people want to speak.

Fifteen per cent. of the UK’s population accounts for 70% of all flights, and half the country does not fly at all in any given year. Ahead of a possible tax cut for the aviation industry next month, Ministers should be thinking more imaginatively, such as replacing air passenger duty with a fair and just levy that targets frequent flyers. The Government’s advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, has called for the introduction of a frequent flyer levy. Such a move could reduce demand for flying without penalising the annual family holiday in the sun, instead making it more expensive to fly out for a weekend at the second home in Provence for the umpteenth time that year.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

No, it is not.

Is the Secretary of State aware that it is more than a decade since the effectiveness of regulators in the transport industry was seriously questioned or considered? [Interruption.] I know he is not listening, but he really should.

Regulators could and should have a positive role in driving carbon reduction in the industries they oversee. Does the Secretary of State agree that the powers of the Office of Rail and Road and the Civil Aviation Authority should be strengthened to ensure that the road, rail, bus and aviation industries meet their climate crisis obligations? Have the Government issued any guidance to the transport industry regulators in that regard?

Finally, the Department for Transport does not have a carbon reduction budget or target. The Government should set a carbon budget consistent with the aspirations of the Paris agreement and beyond. In addition, each of the sectors—rail, road, aviation and maritime—should have carbon reduction targets in line with that departmental budget, and departmental spending should be reallocated to achieve the changes required.

Claire O’Neill is correct to say that the Prime Minister “doesn’t get it” on the climate crisis. The Transport Secretary has an opportunity to show that he does get it by halting the colossal road-building programme and his plans for airport expansion, and by boosting investment in active travel, public transport and electric vehicles.

Dealing with transport is critical to confronting the climate crisis. We are compelled to take action by decarbonising not only to respond to the existential threat to our one and only planet but to embrace the green industrial revolution and, simultaneously, to address the gross and obscene deficits in social justice. We must level up so that everyone across our nation has affordable, accessible and sustainable transport. We must connect our communities and businesses, and we must give people the means to get to work, to get to college, school or university and to get to hospital, and to help address social isolation.

The moral, social and economic imperatives are urgent and stark, and I urge this Government to take the bold and radical action that is necessary. The country, indeed the world, is watching. I commend this motion to the House.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport 4:39 pm, 5th February 2020

I welcome this opportunity to debate transport and climate change. Despite some of the less well-thought-out jibes across the Dispatch Box, we are all pretty much in agreement on the need to address this issue; after all, we have all legislated to reach zero carbon by 2050. That may be where the agreement ends, but it is only right, in that spirit of co-operation, also to agree that this country has made remarkable, world-beating progress towards the targets in recent years, particularly in the past decade or so.

We have already heard mention from the Dispatch Box today of all the solar installations, 99% of which have been installed since 2010. We have seen a huge increase in the amount of renewable energy, particularly from offshore wind—53% of the power now produced comes from wind, solar and nuclear. That means we are getting much more renewable in our energy. That is a good thing and we ought to be celebrating it, but clearly many greater challenges are coming down the line. That is why decarbonisation is so important, but also why we should recognise that we have decarbonised faster than any other G20 country; last year, we led by passing that legislation. Across the House, we clearly agree on reaching zero emissions by 2050 and making that legally binding, which is essential. We are consulting on bringing forward the date for ending the sale of fossil-fuel diesel and petrol cars earlier than 2040, which was previously highlighted.

When I hear us being lectured about the electrification of our railway lines, it is worth remembering that in 13 years of power the Labour party electrified one mile of lines per year. We have done 10 times better, having electrified hundreds of miles. I was grateful to hear Andy McDonald welcoming the new line that I helped launch yesterday. Indeed, I helped work on getting the treaty signed. He described it as London to Amsterdam, but in fact trains were already running from London to Amsterdam and this was about the journey the other way around; the launch means that people no longer need to decant at Brussels, which was a 50-minute process, to go through passport control. From April, people will be able to come straight back, without getting off. He is absolutely right to say that that is an enormous benefit in terms of efficiency and saving carbon dioxide when travelling from Europe.

The new line is the not the end: we are looking to develop further routes, including Frankfurt, and, in the summer, Lille, Lyon, Bordeaux as well as many others. This is an excellent example of how, although we have left the EU, we have most certainly not left Europe and we are able to strengthen our ties in a meaningful way.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a lot of our public want us to bust congestion and get people on the move, so that they can get to school and work more easily? That requires short-term measures to improve junctions, change light arrangements and so forth, and medium-term measures to put in bypasses and additional capacity. That is a very green thing to do, because then we stop people churning out emissions in traffic jams.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I agree with my right hon. Friend on the importance of stopping those pinch points, where traffic just idles, pumps out all this CO2 and creates pollution. That clearly is not sensible, so we have a big programme in place; we are putting £28 billion into our roads. We will shortly be announcing more developments on our road investment strategy, RIS2, and getting rid of more of those pinch points. It is also important to get the traffic that runs on those roads to be greener and to get greener quicker, with electric and other forms of lower carbon and zero carbon production. I will talk a little more about that shortly, but I am clear that simply saying that we will not build any roads anywhere will increase pollution and the toxins in our atmosphere, not reduce them.

The targets have to be tough, and they have to be challenging. That will help to focus the minds not just of the consumer and business but of Government, and that is absolutely right. Targets also have to be viable and practical. That goes to the point made by my right hon. Friend John Redwood. It will not be easy to meet these goals if we simply try to do it by destroying industry along the way. That point is easily forgotten, but if we do forget it, we will not get the miracle that we have had of a 42% reduction in the amount of CO2 at the same time as a 73% increase in the size of the economy.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Labour, Nottingham South

Does the Secretary of State agree that actually the best way to tackle congestion is to get people off the roads and on to bicycles, walking, and indeed using public transport? I want to come back to his point about electrification of the railways. It is good to hear that he is now committed to, and an advocate for, electrification. We are getting electrification of the midland main line to Kettering and Corby. The only way to decarbonise an intensively used railway like that is to electrify it. Is he willing to look at electrifying it all the way through to Sheffield and Nottingham?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I can absolutely reassure the hon. Lady that under this Government we are seeing, and will be seeing, a lot more electrification. I do take slight issue with the idea that the only way to get to a decarbonised railway is to electrify it. There are other possibilities, including, in particular, hydrogen, which we are starting to experiment with on the railways right now—an excellent plan going forward. On her point about roads, bicycles and other forms of transport need roads, so we still have to have them built in this country. I simply do not believe that there is a way round that.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I will make a little progress, if the hon. Lady does not mind.

It is important to realise that we are very keen not only to reduce CO2 but to grow the economy at the same time. The two things are not incompatible; in fact, they go hand in hand. We can do this more successfully if we grow the economy, because then we can get in front of the technology. One of the measures in the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday was to consult on ending petrol and diesel car sales in 2035 or earlier rather than 2040, with the aim of ensuring that the British car manufacturing sector gets the advantage of completely clean travel, which they can then exploit by selling it to the rest of the world. That is one reason why we should be so ambitious to do this. The sector can create jobs—millions of jobs. It is already employing very large numbers of people in this country. This Government want to help society and the economy adapt towards the new decarbonised world.

I recognise—I have said this at the Dispatch Box as recently as last week—that transport contributes over a quarter of the UK’s domestic greenhouse gases; it is a big number. It has become the leading source of greenhouse gases, considering that energy, as described before, has become so much less polluting. That is why, as I say, we came out with the target to move forward with the end of petrol and diesel. That is faster, I should say, than any other European market. In a country that does not produce cars, it is easy to say, “You must only buy an electric car”, but we have a dozen different domestic car producers that we have to take with us on this—and we will. That is why we are investing £1.5 billion over six years to make the UK the best place to own and to manufacture electric cars, and why we are delivering a further £1 billion to transform the automotive sector. Schemes like the Faraday battery challenge and the Advanced Propulsion Centre are funding development of the supply chain, and that can be massively important to this transformation.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

I completely agree with my right hon. Friend on getting electrification of our cars and support his energy in doing so. Our electric cars obviously do need roads to drive on. May I therefore thank him for the contribution that he has made to making sure that my local ancient flyover is coming down next week? Can he confirm that there is funding for pinch points, for instance to replace that junction, and for ensuring that a new, modern, all-singing, all-dancing option of electric vehicles, buses, bicycles and so on remains available for the whole country?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to argue that the Army and Navy flyover should be removed now that it has been closed. We want to make sure, whatever happens, that very low carbon—zero carbon—alternatives are available for people commuting in that area.

I have said at the Dispatch Box that some of the speeches I have heard show that the point has been missed. We have more charging locations in this country than petrol stations. I am not talking about charging points in driveways, where people are fortunate enough to park off-road. I am talking about publicly available charging locations. There are more of those than petrol stations, with one of the largest charging networks in Europe. As a driver of electric cars, who has experienced range anxiety once or twice, I am relieved that that network is growing all the time. An electric car is sold every 15 minutes and the number of people registering for electric cars has more than doubled in the past year, so we have reached the point where this is starting to expand massively.

Photo of Jessica Morden Jessica Morden Opposition Whip (Commons)

Electric vehicles need steel—crucially, electrical steel. Just before Christmas, Tata mothballed the only maker of electrical steel in the UK. Does the Secretary of State agree that the Government have to step in and help the steel industry at this difficult time if we want an end-to-end supply chain in this country?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

That was worked in well, and there is an important point to make. We want to ensure the supply chain not just of steel and electrical steel but of batteries in a gigafactory. Last October, we announced that we are putting up to £1 billion into supporting a gigafactory in this country. People can also expect us to want to support the supply chain, because it is good business, rather than providing subsidy for the sake of subsidy, to make this country a leading one in Europe. We sell one in five of the electric cars sold in Europe and we build them here, and we want to expand that a lot further.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I will make progress, as I know that many hon. Members wish to speak.

Last year, we announced investment of £220 million to make buses more efficient and green. I shall say more about that very shortly. Since 2010, we have provided over £240 million to replace and upgrade our bus fleet, resulting in more than 7,000 cleaner buses on our roads. That is on top of £576 million for local authorities to develop innovative plans for buses, and £288 million for the clean air fund to support individual businesses affected by all those things. I agree with the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, who said that we had to move to green buses—he is absolutely right—and that is exactly what we are doing. Everybody should have the opportunity to get on a bus that is reliable, efficient and clean.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East

I had a conversation yesterday with some firefighters, and it came to light that if lithium batteries caught fire they would need to be put out with sand. Our firefighters are not equipped with that on their fire engines, so will the Secretary of State respond to that?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

That is not something that I have come across, and I am happy to look into it with my team of Ministers, because public safety measures need to be investigated properly. If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I will write to her with details.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I have another few minutes, and I want to give other colleagues a chance to contribute, so I will conclude by mentioning a few more things, particularly promoting healthier forms of transport such as cycling and walking. A number of principles will guide our future mobility urban strategy. We are investing £2.5 billion in the Transforming Cities fund, to help cities and regions throughout England tackle congestion with greener forms of transport, particularly cycling and walking. There are brilliant examples in Manchester, for example, with the Bee Network, and in Birmingham, where there is a network to do the same things. We will be going further and faster on cycling and walking.

We have briefly touched on rail and our enthusiasm for it. It is worth mentioning the £48 billion being provided just in this particular period—control period 6 of Network Rail’s expenditure. That is without Northern Powerhouse Rail and without whatever decisions we reach on high-speed rail. The amount of money going into rail is a record in this country. I know that many colleagues were in Parliament yesterday when we discussed the £0.5 billion going into the Beeching reversal fund, reopening lines that were closed in those savage cuts in the ’60s and ’70s. As I said before, only the Labour party could think that half a billion pounds is small change. And that is just a down payment—that is where we are starting, folks. Yesterday, we had a fantastic meeting with colleagues from all parties—I have not heard any of them complain—who are interested in the reopening of their local Beeching lines, which were savagely cut, mostly under the Labour Governments of the 1970s. Some 5,000 miles of track and 2,300 stations were closed; now that we are opening them all up, all Labour Members say is that we should have done it sooner. You could not make it up.

We are absolutely to committed to the plan to get railways open, and we also take a much more realistic view when it comes to aviation. Just last night I was with representatives of the aviation sector, which has itself signed a plan to get to zero carbon by 2050. The challenge is straightforward enough with cars, because we already have the technology. It is possible with buses and it is easier with other forms of transport, but it is uniquely complex with aircraft, given their weight and the performance requirements that have until now required aviation fuel. The aviation sector’s commitment to get to zero carbon is one of the most serious challenges for this country’s transport plan. I am impressed by the sector’s ideas and the Government will work closely with it, through carbon offsetting—

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

That is just the start. We will work closely with the aviation sector through reduction schemes, by working with international aviation and by producing fuels that do not emit carbon in the same way that fuels do today. The Future Flight Challenge includes £300 million for greener aviation, to make aviation electric. I was not going to repeat the point, but I will now that I have been challenged: we are working on programmes to produce electric and hybrid planes and to use biofuels and other technologies to cut emissions from fuel. That is extremely important.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

The Secretary of State has not mentioned the tube as a means of decarbonising our transport infrastructure. In 2015, the Prime Minister claimed that the Bakerloo line extension was firmly on track to open by 2030; where are the Government at on that now? Will the Secretary of State meet Members who represent the communities that that extension would benefit?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

As the hon. Gentleman will know, that project is led by the Mayor of London and Transport for London, but I meet and speak to them regularly and would be happy to chase up the project on his behalf, because it is in all our interests to see Crossrail and the Victoria line completed. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to point that out.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for coming down to Gloucestershire during the election campaign to see the Air Balloon roundabout which, as he knows, is a pinch point that causes pollution and danger for motorists. He mentioned road investment strategy 2 earlier in his speech and said that it would be announced shortly; can he provide any further detail as to when we can expect to see it?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

It will arrive before very long. I have seen the problems at the Air Balloon roundabout with very own eyes, along with my hon. Friend and other colleagues, and I am keen to see that pinch point addressed. Although I cannot announce the RIS2 outcome, my hon. Friend will not have to wait long to find it out. I look forward to visiting the area again in the near future.

To sum up, we are well aware of the effort that is required—it is a great national effort. This is not something that will happen in one Department or in one corner of the economy; it has to happen throughout the whole of Government and the whole of society. I fully recognise that transport needs to lead the way when it comes to departmental reductions in the amount of greenhouse gases and toxins in the atmosphere. That is why we are working on our transport decarbonisation plan, which in itself will be world leading, both in its scale of ambition and in what it will produce for this country.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Colleagues will be able to see that a large number of people want to speak in the debate, so after the SNP spokesperson there will be an immediate time limit of six minutes.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 4:59 pm, 5th February 2020

I will start in a positive vein by welcoming the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday of an acceleration in the phasing out of new petrol and diesel vehicles. Of course, he still lags a good few years behind the Scottish Government’s target of 2032, but it is progress none the less and we welcome it.

The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, today set out Scotland’s national transport strategy. It is an ambitious and bold strategy that places decarbonisation and our net zero target at the heart of all the Scottish Government do. It also places active travel where it should be—at the top of the transport hierarchy. The benefits to our transport system and the environment are manifold, but the wider benefits are in many ways greater still. Diseases of inactivity are among the biggest killers in western society. Placing walking at the centre of any transport strategy boosts life expectancy and allows our NHS to spend resources and time elsewhere. This debate, therefore, is not just about the environmental benefits for all; it is also about the environment in which each of us lives and how we can improve it to give everyone the best outcome possible for life.

That requires a strategy—something that is missing from the UK Government’s approach. There is no national transport strategy for England or the UK as a whole. There are investment strategies, inclusive strategies, strategic plans for the north of England, and infrastructure skills strategies. They are all important and part of the mix, but there is no overall plan to improve transport in the round. My colleague at Holyrood deserves praise for the work that he and Transport Scotland have done to embed in a national plan of action the principles of fairness, environmental justice and sustainable growth in tackling inequalities and transitioning to net zero.

To achieve those net zero targets, we need a strong lead from the state, with clear-headed policies, not just in terms of our obligations to cut emissions and tackle climate change, but in order to develop our economy and society more generally. Gone are the days when millions of us lived within a short walk of our workplaces and neighbourhood shops. We now need and expect to be able to travel with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of comfort, which is exactly how it should be in a wealthy 21st-century society.

That sort of system cannot focus on one solution alone; we need a basket of policies that fit all our lives and take into account our varying geography and topography. We can look at what works and at what can be done now and in the near future to accelerate sustainability. One example, as both Front-Bench representatives have said, is to improve our buses. In Scotland, nearly 400 million bus journeys are made every year, which is four times the number of ScotRail passenger journeys. More than one quarter of all people use a bus at least once a week, and nearly one fifth of our school students travel to school on a bus. Four thousand buses result in more than 1 million journeys every day, travelling the length and breadth of Scotland, from Shetland to Stranraer.

For far too long, however, the public bus system has been overshadowed by rail. Barely a week goes by without some breathless coverage—often merited, sometimes not so much—of an incident on our railways. Meanwhile, the slow decline of bus services and the drift downwards of patronage and coverage largely goes unreported and is not commented on.

That is exactly why last September the Scottish Government’s programme for government announced a record half a billion pounds of investment in infrastructure designed to improve bus services by reducing and removing the impacts of congestion, giving more priority to buses, and fundamentally increasing buses’ modal share and reducing our use of private cars. That modal share slipped below 10% for the first time in the most recent round of transport statistics, which is just one reason why that £500 million represents a massively positive breakthrough in transport priorities.

Investing in the bus network is not just about reducing emissions and congestion or moving to decarbonisation; it is also about social justice. Put simply, the lower somebody’s income, the more likely they are to rely on the bus. Social mobility is not just a figure of speech. Flexible transport services go hand in hand with ease of access to employment and they improve labour market options for employees. Supporting bus travel is a fully progressive policy that shifts wealth and income to the poorest in society and empowers people to have a much wider choice of where and how they want to earn a living.

I welcome the Government’s announcement of extra funding to reinstate some of the slash-and-burn policies instituted by Beeching nearly 60 years ago, but I am concerned about the “reversing Beeching” programme. How does a series of separate branch lines scattered around the country form part of a system-wide plan for a rail network with a bigger picture for the regional and national level? Whatever people’s opinions of HS2, it is at least an attempt to think strategically about future transport needs.

I know the Secretary of State will disagree with me, as he has done previously, on the £500 million being a drop in the ocean, but that is the truth. The Borders railway, which was a strategic project aimed at massively boosting connectivity and the economy of a part of the world that is too often left to fend for itself with crumbs from the table, and was one of the final victims of the Beeching report in 1969, cost £294 million for 40 miles of single-line track over a distance of 31 miles. With consumer prices index inflation factored in, that is £328 million. By the time the consultants, the press officers, and the hi-vis and hard hats for visiting dignitaries and—dare I say—Secretaries of State have been paid for, the £500 million promised by the DFT will pay for about one and a half Borders railways somewhere in England. That would be 60 miles of track, added to a network of over 16,000 miles in England and Wales—an increase of 0.38%.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The hon. Member is making an important point. The budget for HS2 is about £100 billion, and Lord Berkeley’s dissenting report says that the cost-benefit ratio is 60p for every £1 spent, so the British Government are about to burn £40 billion. Would it not be better to chuck that £100 billion into the Beeching reversal fund, because that would do far more for connectivity than HS2?

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

I certainly agree that the money that has been promised thus far is insignificant in reality. I think Transport for the North put it best when it said that around £70 billion is required just to increase connectivity to the requisite level in the north of England, let alone the rest of the country. The best I can say is that £500 million is a good start.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

I will give way briefly, but I am conscious of Madam Deputy Speaker’s urgings about time.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I have just received a response to a written question about that £500 million, but the Government have confirmed that it is not new money in the Department’s spending. It is actually money that has clearly come from somewhere else. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is another Tory con trick, and that the investment coming forward should actually be new?

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

I absolutely agree, but I am hardly surprised by the response to my hon. Friend’s written question. It is not unusual for this Government to double- count money and re-announce the same figures.

I do welcome the new openings, if they occur. My concern is that they simply do not go far enough in creating an integrated network of the type that Beeching was happy to destroy. In 20 years of devolution, successive Scottish Governments—both SNP and Labour-led, to be fair—have understood the importance of bold action to reverse the cuts made in a previous era. Airdrie to Bathgate, Larkhall, the Borders railway, Stirling to Alloa and the extension of the Maryhill line are all reinstatements of Beeching closures. We have the biggest programme of electrification and decarbonisation of the rail network in 40 years, with all services between our two biggest cities running under the wires, as well as Stirling, Alloa, Falkirk, Paisley Canal and Whifflet, with much more in the pipeline as part of the rolling programme of electrification. The result of all this—and much more—will be a carbon-free rail system that helps Scotland to achieve net zero. I hope that the UK Transport Secretary will visit the Cabinet Secretary for Transport in Edinburgh during his tenure to hear how it is done, and see the real investment going into Scotland’s railways day in, day out. These are not magic fixes or changes beyond our economic capacity. They are realistic, achievable solutions to the challenges that we all face.

Many of our roads are at—or, in some cases, over—capacity, which brings increased congestion and the resultant increased emissions. There are those who say we should stop building roads altogether. I say, tell that to the residents of Aberdeenshire, who have seen their travel transformed by the western peripheral route, or those crossing the Forth on the replacement crossing, which has seen not one day of closure due to high winds—a bridge built in the face of opposition from many who are now curiously quiet about their lack of support. Tell it to the residents of Dalry, who, thanks to the newly opened bypass, which was completed seven months ahead of schedule, have seen traffic and pollution in their town plummet.

Targeted investments in our road network, combined with the massive expansion in electric charge points and projects such as the electric highway along the A9 are all part of the mix in reducing emissions. Private transport must be available to as wide a cohort of society as possible. That is why Scottish households can now access grant funding that will, on average, pay for 80% of the cost of installing a home charge point—30% more than the rest of the UK. There are more public charging points per head in Scotland than anywhere else outside London. We are rolling out support for e-bikes, social landlords who want to develop zero-emissions infrastructure and car clubs. The low carbon transport loan means that more households than ever are in a position to make the switch now, rather than later. With used electric cars now becoming eligible, the choice available is getting wider all the time.

Scotland is doing well, but Norway is soaring ahead in electric car deployment. By the end of 2020, half of all new cars sold there will be electric—the result of bold policies and a determination by Government to tackle a societal and environmental challenge. Those bold policies are only possible because Norway has the resources and the power of an independent state to make those changes. If the UK does not want to use the powers it has to make those changes, it should ensure that Scotland does.

Scotland has shown global leadership by being the first country to include international aviation and shipping emissions in its statutory climate targets. Aviation is undoubtedly the most difficult sector to decarbonise, although I welcome the industry’s recently announced commitment to do so by 2050. The SNP has already committed to decarbonise flights within Scotland by 2040 and aims to have the world’s first zero-emission aviation region, in partnership with Highlands and Islands Airports.

Too often, transport policy appears to be a contradiction in terms. In the short time since taking up my position as the SNP’s transport spokesperson, I have been genuinely surprised at the lack of joined-up thinking that pervades so much of what is sketched out for the future. Putting the zero-emission society at the heart of transport planning and wider Government policy means joining up some of that thinking towards a common goal and a common strategy. That is exactly what the Scottish Government have been doing and continue to do, and it is what the Cabinet Secretary for Finance will be doing tomorrow when he unveils the Scottish budget. It is what the Cabinet Secretary for Transport did earlier this afternoon at Holyrood, and I hope it is what the UK Transport Secretary will begin to do as he reflects on this debate in the weeks and months ahead.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee 5:11 pm, 5th February 2020

I thank all the colleagues who supported me—or told me they did—in the election for the Transport Committee, which it is a great privilege to chair. I have not done much for diversity, because I think I am the first male to chair it. There is a serious issue with diversity in the transport sector, and I recognise that I am not exactly waving the flag for that. I also want to thank Lilian Greenwood, who chaired the Committee previously with such rigour. She was an incredibly popular Chair, and it is a delight to see her back on the Committee. She has promised not to be a backseat driver, but another formidable female politician once said the same thing in this place. I am happy to be driven from the back.

It is a delight to speak on such a wide-ranging motion tabled by the Opposition. I do not agree with many parts of it, but I welcome the fact that we are debating them, and none more so than the need to decarbonise our transport sector. We have had great success in reducing emissions by 40% since the 1990s. Pretty much every sector except transport has reduced emissions over the past few years. It has remained stubbornly difficult to reduce transport’s footprint. Surface transport accounts for 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and transport as a whole accounts for 33%. In fact, between 2014 and 2016, emissions from transport went up, so it is clearly the sector that needs the most focus, and I welcome the fact that it is getting that focus today.

I want to talk about some of the exciting innovations in the transport sector that we need to harness and encourage in order to meet our net zero carbon commitment.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

Is it not interesting that the Secretary of State is the only person in the debate so far to mention hydrogen, the true zero-emission product that can help us to achieve the goals set out by the Government?

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. In fact, I was just about to talk about hydrogen, so that is a brilliant segue.

The Transport Committee visited the engineer who first retrofitted a conventional train with hydrogen technology. We talk about the need to electrify and move away from diesel, but 2% of the national grid is taken up by electrified rail, and if only 40% of energy is coming from renewables, that means that 60% is still unpleasant. We need to invest in hydrogen, and it is very exciting that we have the engineer in this country who will enable us to do just that.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee

I will take one more intervention, as I am conscious that others wish to speak.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West

I congratulate the hon. Member on his election. On hydrogen production for trains and transport in general, we need to think about how it is produced. ITM Power in Yorkshire produces its hydrogen using electrolysis, which actually means it is a zero carbon fuel. We need to take this in the round, because sometimes decarbonisation does not mean decarbonisation if the fuel still needs carbon and fossil fuels for its manufacture.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee

The hon. Member is absolutely right. If we are to call it completely green technology, it needs to be as he describes. Perhaps we should have in mind a trip to Yorkshire.

I want to talk about the development of batteries in trains. On the Southern network, for example, there are still two diesel services, even though there is usually a third rail, because part of it does not have the third rail and the services therefore need diesel all the way through. The idea with batteries is that we charge and then use them for the part where there is no third rail. As I have mentioned, that incredibly exciting technology will allow us to move away from diesel.

I want to touch on parts of the motion that involve a more wide-ranging set of issues. There is the desire to cut rail and bus fares, and I absolutely agree that we should be looking to lessen increases in rail fares. It is very frustrating that we still use RPI rather than CPI to calculate rail fare increases; in the past year, fares would have gone up by 2.5% instead of 3.1%. The challenge is that a third of all the train operators’ costs go on employing staff, and if the staff continue to be paid on an RPI basis it will be very difficult to move that over.

I am excited by the ideas on fare reform that have been put forward mostly under the guise of the Williams review. It is absolutely ludicrous that those travelling to work for three days of the week, perhaps working from home during the rest of the week, are still unable to get a three-day-week ticket. That can make it too expensive for people to commute, so I would welcome such a reform.

I would dearly love to see automatic rail compensation. The train operators take the money they receive from Network Rail when there are delays, but two thirds of passengers who experience a delay do not claim compensation, so the rest is banked by the train operators. I would like them to have to ring-fence that money in a fund, and to invest in technology that allows us to tap on and tap off the train, so that if the train is delayed by more than 15 or 30 minutes, we would get compensation into our bank account without even needing to know that we had been delayed. We must get the train operators to deliver that technology, so that commuters and passengers feel that they are getting value for money, or at least that they are getting compensated when they have not had value for money.

I will not mention HS2, because I fear that will come up in many other debates, but I certainly envisage the Committee looking at it. However, I do want to talk about buses. Three out of five of all public transport journeys are undertaken by bus, yet it just does not receive the attention it should. I am looking at my hon. Friend Andrew Jones, and he and I may be about to disagree, but when he was the Buses Minister, we had the Bus Services Act 2017. I really felt it should be a case of franchising for all authorities that wanted it, followed by partnerships and then followed by municipals in situations where partnerships and franchises did not work. I know the view was to stop further municipals, but if we now say to local authorities, “If developers aren’t building out, then you build council houses and compete with them”, why can we not do the same thing when the bus service disappears?

On the buses strategy, may we examine more closely whether deregulation is working? With train operators, the trains are paid for by the passengers who use them, so there is no subsidy as far as that is concerned, yet we tell the train operators when the trains stop and how often. However, when it comes to buses, which receive a £2 billion public sector subsidy, we do not impose the same conditions, so bus services may disappear, or get rerouted so that they no longer pass the GP’s surgery.

The buses strategy, which I absolutely welcome, needs to set out some teeth in terms of what bus service providers provide to our constituents. I say that very much looking at my new parliamentary party, with colleagues from parts of the north that we have not represented before, where the bus is even more of an essential service than in other parts we have previously reached. I very much hope that we will have the power, on the Conservative Benches, to ensure that bus services are properly restored. I also ask why young people cannot get to places of Saturday or part-time work because the bus service is too expensive or does not exist, yet we allow millionaire pensioners to receive free bus travel. It is essential that we ask these very searching questions.

We have talked about aviation; it is going to be incredibly difficult to green, but I disagree with the Liberal Democratsamendment that we should not proceed with Heathrow. We need to demonstrate that we can still build big.

I do not have time to talk about motor vehicles, but 70% of the footprint is motor vehicles, and a third of all journeys taken by e-scooters would have been by car. We must legalise e-scooters.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South 5:19 pm, 5th February 2020

This is the first time that I have spoken on transport in this Parliament, but it is far from the first time that I have spoken on these issues over the past decade in this House. Indeed, the fact that I shall repeat many of the points that I have previously raised with other Ministers shows just how little progress there has been in delivering a reliable, affordable and integrated public transport system for people throughout the north-east, including my constituents.

We are a region with incredible potential, but our inadequate transport links hold us back. An expanded, integrated network would address so many of the challenges we face, from the economy to the environment. It would unlock job opportunities by allowing people without a car to access areas they would have struggled to get to before. It would help ward off loneliness and isolation. And it would tackle the poor air quality that is present in so many communities across our country.

Making sure that areas such as mine can benefit from a well-run, integrated system that puts passengers first should not be beyond us, but in my constituency it has been decades since we were last served by any form of passenger rail service. That means that buses are the only option for those wishing to use public transport, but those services are often unreliable and costly, and are too often run for the benefit of shareholders, not the taxpayer. In the last decade alone, several routes have been cut or altered, often on spurious grounds, usually connected to profit, with little warning for local people, leaving residents cut off from GPs, hospitals and schools.

The demand for good public transport in the north-east is there; we are the region that, outside London, has the lowest rate of car ownership in the country. We also have great economic potential; we are the only UK region to consistently deliver a trade surplus and the leading exporting region in the UK.

For years now, we have heard great rhetoric about the Government’s commitment to the north, and we have heard even more in recent months, but that has not been matched by action. For too long our region has suffered from a major imbalance in transport spending per head when compared with other English regions.

There are a number of credible and viable ways in which access to public transport could be opened up. Houghton and Sunderland South is home to a section of the Leamside line, a mothballed rail corridor running between Newcastle and Durham, passing through Fence Houses and Penshaw and then over the incredible Victoria viaduct. Nexus has identified the long-term strategic benefits of reopening the Leamside line. It would add capacity for both freight and passenger services operating at local, regional and national level. That would relieve pressure on the east coast main line, which is already at capacity and is set to face greater demands in years to come. I invite the Minister to come and see the Leamside line, to appreciate what could be achieved if we were able to reopen that important line. I would also urge the Secretary of State to look favourably on funding if any business case is put before him, in the context of the strategic outline business case.

Another long-term prospect would be the extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro to Doxford international business park in my constituency, where thousands of workers are based. There is a real desire among my constituents to make that a reality—a point I made when responding to the Government’s consultation on light rail. Ministers had hoped to respond to the consultation by the end of last year. I take the opportunity to ask the Minister when he expects the Government response to be forthcoming.

Reopening the Leamside line and extending the Metro are just two examples of how investment in rail and light rail could benefit my constituency. Doubtless we shall hear many similar cases made by Members across the House. I appreciate that what I have set out represents longer-term projects that will take time and capital investment to deliver, but there is one straightforward way that the Government could immediately address the quality of public transport in my constituency—by sorting out our failed bus network.

We have seen bus routes cut on a whim, with the absolute minimum of notice, and with no requirement to release the data on profitability that leads to those decisions. It is unsurprising, therefore, that in the north-east bus patronage among adults has continued to fall substantially in recent years. These are the consequences of deregulation in the ’80s, which, as I have argued before, has been an unmitigated disaster for constituencies like mine. There is no reason why local bus services in the north-east cannot operate on the basis of an integrated transport system with genuine smart ticketing that allows people greater flexibility in travelling.

Ministers should give us the powers we need to franchise bus services, so that local people have a greater say, and ensure that passengers and taxpayers are put ahead of the interests of bus company shareholders. Making such a change in legislation need not be difficult if the political will exists, and it would provide a much quicker solution to tackling the inadequate public transport network that we see throughout the north-east.

If all this talk of so-called levelling up is to mean anything, we need to see much more action and fewer platitudes from Ministers, and a clear demonstration that they will work with us—communities, businesses and politicians, right across the north-east—to unlock our potential and invest in our transport network.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright Conservative, Kenilworth and Southam 5:25 pm, 5th February 2020

It is a great pleasure to follow Bridget Phillipson. I want to use my time this afternoon to speak about a project, the argument for which is often that it reduces overall carbon emissions from our transport network, although that argument is debatable. The project, inevitably, is HS2.

The motion is really about the strategic outline of transport policy for the foreseeable future. I believe that high-speed rail can be a part of that. From an environmental point of view, trains are better than planes and high- speed rail can provide genuine competition for short- haul flights. Taking city-to-city passenger traffic off the conventional rail network and on to high-speed rail lines can leave more space for stopping passenger services to more destinations and can leave more train pathways for freight services that take freight off our roads. Those are all, in my judgment, good arguments, but they are arguments for a well-designed and well delivered high-speed rail network. I am afraid that I do not believe that HS2 qualifies for that description.

If it is to be built, HS2 will be a significant part of our strategic transport infrastructure, with many miles of new track. I accept, of course, that building such infrastructure in a small and crowded island is bound to be disruptive, but those responsible for building the infrastructure have a responsibility to minimise the disruption. People whose homes, businesses and farm land will be demolished, diminished or devalued by HS2 have a right to be treated fairly and with decency. In the decade of this project’s development, and in my experience as a constituency Member of Parliament, they too often have not been. Communication is invariably poor, consideration for distress caused is lacking, and compensation is grudgingly agreed and painfully and slowly extracted.

I accept, of course, that taxpayers’ interests must be protected, but the nation has an obligation to those who take a personal hit for national benefit. That obligation falls to be discharged by HS2 Ltd in this project. There are individual HS2 Ltd employees who do their best to be compassionate and responsive, but I have to say that I find HS2 Ltd as a corporate entity to be both chronically inefficient and institutionally callous. If HS2 is to proceed, that must change. What makes it worse for so many of those individually affected is that they do not accept the case for HS2 in the first place. Many more of our constituents who are not directly affected by HS2, but are profoundly concerned about the environmental damage it will do and the price tag it has, feel the same.

A project of this scale will inevitably cost a great deal and its cost cannot be properly considered in isolation from its benefits, both direct and indirect, but the financial cost of HS2 is not just high but rising fast: £32.7 billion by 2012; £55.7 billion by 2015; and at least £72 billion by last year, with few believing it will stop there. What makes HS2 very high cost is its very high speed and the expensive engineering required to achieve it. It is also the requirement for very high speed that removes the project’s ability to divert around sensitive areas and reduce environmental damage. Very high speed used to be the primary argument for HS2, but significantly it is now capacity improvements that are argued as justification for the project. Those capacity improvements do not require the very high speeds to which this project is currently working.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

I wholly agree with many of the arguments that my right hon. and learned Friend is making. Does he agree that there are other schemes out there, such as reopening the Great Central line, that would improve capacity without having to go down the environmentally damaging route of HS2?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright Conservative, Kenilworth and Southam

I do. We should use the pause that the Secretary of State has sensibly ordered to develop a cheaper, less environmentally damaging high-speed rail network—perhaps one that lays additional track along existing transport corridors. With the money that we can save, we can invest in more of the transport projects that are mentioned in this debate while still investing in high-speed rail. To my mind, that would be a better strategic balance in transport policy.

I recognise that going back to the drawing board on high-speed rail will cause a delay to its coming into operation, but as my hon. Friend rightly says there are alternatives that have already been partially developed. Let us recall that only last year we were told that phase 1 of HS2 would, in any event, be delayed by at least two years and that phase 2 would be delayed by at least three years. High-speed rail will change our transport future for generations to come. It is too important to get wrong, and we can do better than HS2.

Photo of Tahir Ali Tahir Ali Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green 5:31 pm, 5th February 2020

I am truly honoured and privileged to be here representing the people of my constituency of Birmingham, Hall Green. I am forever grateful to the constituents who have put their trust and confidence in me, with such a huge mandate.

I have waited until today, 5 February, to make my maiden speech for two reasons. Many Members in the Chamber may not be aware that today is Kashmir Solidarity Day. Kashmir Solidarity Day is in observance of support for and to express unity and solidarity with the people of Indian-administered Kashmir, and to pay homage to the tens of thousands of Kashmiris who have been martyred in the conflict by Indian armed forces.

On 5 August—exactly six months ago today—the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Indian Government decided to strip the state of Jammu and Kashmir of autonomy after seven decades, characterising it as the correction of a historical blunder. This act is illegal and the international community’s silence on the matter is worrying. In south Asia, the long drawn-out dispute over the state of Jammu and Kashmir remains a hanging fireball between two hostile nuclear neighbours, India and Pakistan. It has been bringing human misery in the form of wars on the issue and it continues to threaten regional and global peace. My role is not to take sides, such as to be pro-Pakistan or anti-India. I believe, as a Kashmiri, that it is my duty to highlight the abuses and human rights violations to this House.

Even after seven decades, the people of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir are waiting for their right of self-determination, promised by the United Nations. Notwithstanding over 25 United Nations resolutions calling for a solution to the dispute, India remains reluctant to grant the Kashmiris their right of self-determination. The Scottish people were rightly afforded a referendum to express their desire for independence. The UK had a referendum on remaining in or leaving the EU. Seven decades later, the people of Kashmir are still waiting. This is not, in my view, a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan—the international community needs to take responsibility.

More than 40% of my constituents come from the region of Kashmir, so it is important to them to see the matter resolved, but that can happen only if the international community, through the United Nations, seeks a peaceful and lasting resolution. By abrogation, the special status of Indian-administrated Jammu and Kashmir was violated on 5 August last year. The Indian Government have audaciously defied the basic norms and principles underpinning the concepts of democracy and human freedom. India has deprived the Kashmiris of the right to express themselves peacefully. Even elderly women who marked a silent protest in Srinagar, the capital of India-administered Kashmir, were not spared and have been detained.

The Indian army and paramilitary forces operating in Indian-held Kashmir have deliberately and methodically violated the fundamental norms of international human rights law, for which the Indian Government are responsible, despite their being a signatory to these laws. I demand an end to all elements of siege in the Kashmir valley and the full restoration of telephony and internet and of the democratic and basic human rights of the besieged Kashmiris. I demand that they allow them and foreign media to travel and report unhindered and commit to providing a safe environment for human rights defenders and organisations so that they can conduct their work without fear. We have an international obligation to support peace, equality and just treatment for all humans. To quote Martin Luther King,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

It would be easy to make headline-grabbing jibes at Conservative Members, but I will rise above that in my maiden speech and talk about the issues that need to be addressed in Birmingham, Hall Green. The second reason I have chosen to make my maiden speech today is that this is National Apprenticeship Week. In 1989, at the age of 17, I secured an engineering apprenticeship with Royal Mail. Apprenticeships are an excellent way of providing secure jobs, a regular income and an early start into employment, and are an alternative to the academic route. My apprenticeship provided me with an opportunity to go to university; I was the first in my family to do so. Much has been done in recent years on apprenticeships, as is acknowledged, and much is being done by many councils across the country, but a lot more could be done. The next step has to be Whitehall giving control to the regions and local authorities. Many have benefited from apprenticeships, but many more could benefit, and not just the young either; older people can benefit too.

The climate emergency needs to be taken seriously and can be avoided if bold and ambitious steps are taken. Hundreds of properties have been flooded in Birmingham, Hall Green and remain at risk of flooding from the River Cole. Urgent and adequate funding and a programme are required to prevent such disasters from happening again.

Many schools in Birmingham, Hall Green do not open for the full five days a week owing to inadequate funding. Immediate steps need to be taken as a matter of urgency so that all schools receive the adequate funding they need to open for the full five days. Part-time schooling needs to end immediately. It is also appalling that in this, the fifth-richest country in the world, children are going to school hungry. The only meal some of them have in the day is the one they have at school. It is shameful that, while we enjoy the benefits of a subsidised canteen here in Parliament, many children in our constituencies remain hungry and are resorting to food banks in record numbers. We ought to be ashamed.

As long as I am in this House, I will continue to speak up for investment in services and the creation of opportunities for everyone in Birmingham, Hall Green. I will continue to speak up and challenge the Government to invest in public services that will have a positive and lasting impact for my constituents. The people of Hall Green have placed their trust in me, and I pledge to represent their interests and concerns to the best of my ability for as long as I remain in this House.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I am afraid that after the next speaker, the time limit will go down to five minutes, but it may have to be reduced quite quickly after that.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Conservative, East Hampshire 5:40 pm, 5th February 2020

It is a huge pleasure and privilege to follow our new colleague Tahir Ali, who spoke with passion about some incredibly important issues. I was particularly pleased to hear him talk about National Apprenticeship Week. So many of us have had opportunities to interact with it in Parliament this week, and will continue to do so when we are back in our constituencies in a couple of days. The hon. Gentleman’s own career is clearly a very impressive back story, and I think it is abundantly obvious to all of us that he will be a great asset to this place.

Climate change is the defining challenge of our age. Although there is still so much to be done, we can take some pride in the fact that this country has been decarbonising faster than comparable countries in the G20. Much the greatest part of that reduction so far has been our success on energy supply; transport is now the sector with the most emissions, and we must therefore prioritise it strongly.

I do not know where the figures in the Labour party’s manifesto come from, although, to be fair, not knowing where the figures come from is hardly a novel experience with today’s Labour party. I challenged Andy McDonald, the shadow Secretary of State, to say what had happened to transport emissions under the Labour Government, but he declined to engage in that conversation. I can tell him that, in fact, they rose in the 10 years after Labour came to power in 1997. At the time of the financial crash of 2007-08 they did fall dramatically, but for all the wrong reasons. Then, when we returned to government and started to rebuild the economy and build up employment, they rose from their level in 2012-13, but not to anywhere near the level to which the Labour Government had taken them in 2007.

It turns out that, although our success on energy is something of a stand-out story, our experience of transport emissions being stubborn and difficult to reduce is rather more common in other countries. The European Environment Agency has added together domestic emissions and international aviation emissions, and has found that between 1990 and 2017—the latest period for which it has figures—the change in transport emissions in the UK was basically the same as that in France, and comparable with what happened in Germany. Only Liechtenstein experienced substantial decreases in its transport emissions, and I am afraid that in the EU28 as a whole they rose by 28%.

Photo of Robert Largan Robert Largan Conservative, High Peak

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way—he is very generous. Does he agree that one way of reducing transport emissions would be to site train stations in areas to which people can walk rather than drive? As the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend Chris Heaton-Harris, is listening, may I now make a pitch for a new station for Gamesley?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Conservative, East Hampshire

My hon. Friend has made a good point about walking. Along with cycling, it is an important part of the picture, as are buses, which so many Members have mentioned today. I hope that the potential for “on demand” buses will benefit constituencies such as mine. We have also talked about rail electrification. As for heavy goods vehicles, there is a strong link with the development of autonomous vehicles. I am pleased that the UK continues to take a strong line internationally on aviation and shipping; it is important to remember that the targets for international aviation and shipping are set internationally.

We have heard more this week—encouragingly, I think —about alternative jet fuel technologies. As was mentioned by both my hon. Friend Huw Merriman and Ian Paisley, hydrogen remains potentially a very exciting technology for the future. However, the single most important element in transport is roads, and within that it is cars. In 2018, this country was the second largest European market for ultra low emission cars and the fourth largest for battery electric cars, and a fifth of the battery electric cars sold in Europe were made here. We now have far more charging points—over 22,000—and a penetration of rapid charging points relative to the extent of the road network that compares very favourably with the continent of Europe. Of course, there are many Government subsidies and support programmes that go with that.

We clearly need to do more, however. We had a debate in Westminster Hall the other day in which I talked a lot about how we can try to help consumers through questions about cost and help them to understand that it is important to look at the whole-life cost, particularly now that so many people are getting their vehicle through personal contract hire rather than buying it, even on finance. That comparison should be a lot easier. Clearly, we need to carry on working on the infrastructure network and do more on roaming, interoperability and the visibility of charging points. We also need to ensure that new homes have charging facilities. In my discussion with the Minister in Westminster Hall, I also mentioned that we need to do more on last-mile deliveries, given the huge growth in home shopping. Amazon lockers are great for Amazon, but that is a proprietary system. Can we start to use our post office network as a hub and spoke facility? That would be a good way of reducing the need for last-mile journeys as well as bringing useful footfall and business into post offices.

I will finish now because I know that others want to speak. It is possible to recognise that there is a huge amount to do while also recognising the progress that has been made. People need to know that we in this place understand the gravity of the problem, but also that we are committed, together, to doing what is necessary, and that we can and will do that. It would be so much better if we could return to doing that on the basis of the cross-party consensus that we have had in the past.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. In an attempt to get everybody in, the time limit will go down to four minutes after the next speaker.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Shadow Minister (International Trade) 5:46 pm, 5th February 2020

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in the debate, and it is a pleasure to follow Damian Hinds. I would like to speak about two important transport issues. The first is the campaign to save the Queensbury tunnel in my constituency. The second is the urgent need for more transport investment in the north and the fact that the Government must deliver both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The Queensbury tunnel is a 1.4 mile-long heritage rail tunnel that lies beneath the village of Queensbury, which is situated between Bradford and Halifax. The last train ran through it in 1956, but there is an exciting local plan to transform the tunnel into a walking and cycling route. Unfortunately, Highways England has mismanaged the tunnel over several years and is now spending millions of pounds to pump out flood water to prepare for the tunnel’s abandonment. There is widespread local and national opposition to this, with more than 6,000 people objecting, and Members from both sides of this House are supporting the campaign to save it. Put simply, the Government have a choice. Either they can spend a significant amount of money to abandon the tunnel, destroying an historical asset with no public benefit, or they can invest for the future by restoring the tunnel and transforming it into the centrepiece of a new walking and cycling route between Bradford and Halifax. I know that the Secretary of State and other Ministers in his Department are aware of the situation, and I ask them once again to commit to visiting the tunnel and, more importantly, to working with me and the local authority to get this situation resolved.

Turning to the broader question of transport in West Yorkshire and across the north, the Government’s own Industrial Strategy Council said this week that

“regional differences in UK productivity are at their highest level for over a century.”

Clearly there is no silver bullet to solve this long-standing problem, but as I have said many times in this place, improving the north’s outdated transport system must be part of the solution. We can begin by getting rid of the either/or choice between HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. We all know that this would not be a question if it was being asked about London. The north needs and deserves both projects. All we are asking for is fairness in funding and a rebalancing to ensure that the economy of the north is no longer held back by underinvestment. For my constituents to really benefit from these projects, the Government must commit to Bradford having a city centre stop on Northern Powerhouse Rail.

However, we must go beyond those big-ticket infra- structure projects, and buses must be at the heart of this. Funding cuts, services being withdrawn and fare increases over the past 10 years have let passengers down. They deserve reliable and affordable services; that is the only way we can build a sustainable and balanced economy. The Government can use all the soundbites in the world, but that will not solve regional inequalities. What my constituents and people across the north want and need is fair funding to fix a creaking transport system. The north is a diverse and complex place, but the Government are apparently reluctant or unable to invest in its infrastructure at the same levels as in other parts of the country, which has undoubtedly led to a twin-track economy. That needs to end, and it needs to end now.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke 5:50 pm, 5th February 2020

My colleagues on the Department for Transport Front Bench have one of the most difficult problems in government, because not only are they dealing with constituencies that have different transport needs—I only have to compare the needs of the constituents of my right hon. Friend Damian Hinds with those of mine in Basingstoke just a few miles away—and with different rural and suburban transport challenges, but they also have to deal with decarbonisation and with eye-wateringly long lead times when trying make a meaningful difference to this country’s transport mix.

That is the Ministers’ challenge, and my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire was right to say that we will tackle the problem only with a cross-party approach. I hope everybody welcomes the Government putting an extra £1 billion into the development of next-generation electric vehicles, and their plan to bring forward the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars to 2035. We all see Government policies trickling down into our constituencies. I certainly have in Basingstoke, with the proliferation of charging points, particularly rapid charging points, and the renewal of the bus fleet, with Stagecoach launching 32 new low-emission buses in Basingstoke just before Christmas. So there are signs that some of the policy changes are trickling down, but I will focus on two particular issues that we have not said a great deal about so far in this debate. The people whom we represent would think we were living in a parallel universe if we did not talk about the importance of improving road transport as well as public transport more generally.

If we are to ease congestion on our roads, we have to be prepared to talk about this. Roadside emissions massively contribute not only to overall climate change emissions, but to some of the health problems that many of our constituents experience. I commend the British Lung Foundation and Breathe Easy Basingstoke for their work in raising awareness of the importance of tackling roadside emissions. Basingstoke council has run a “clear the air” campaign to encourage people to cut their engines when in congestion, and Members should consider something similar for their own constituencies. We must also tackle congestion pinch points if we are to tackle roadside emissions. I put on the record my thanks to Basingstoke’s local enterprise partnership for securing around £50 million to improve pinch points around the Brighton Hill roundabout and a whole host of other roundabouts, which are causing so many problems in terms of increasing pollution levels.

The other thing I want to focus on is the importance of investing in south-east England, which Ministers would of course expect me to raise in this debate. The truth is that transport expenditure in the south-east is 15% below the UK average. If we are to rebalance the economy, I urge Ministers to work closely with councils in the south-east to ensure that the region moves from receiving the lowest public sector expenditure per head of population to receiving something nearer the average.

Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Labour, Halifax 5:54 pm, 5th February 2020

We know that asking people to get out of their vehicles and to adopt cleaner methods of transport like rail will be essential if we are to significantly reduce our emissions in the necessary timeframe. We are asking people to make different lifestyle choices, while knowing full well that rail in the north is a toxic combination of unreliable, uncomfortable and expensive, but it is not a big ask.

People in my part of the world are desperate to use trains, as Halifax is almost equidistant between Leeds and Manchester, but we cannot accommodate the demand or provide the service those passengers deserve. Passengers on the Calder Valley line face overcrowding that is uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst. We are only just starting to see new trains replacing the Pacers, but driver shortages crippled Northern’s ability to operate those services, resulting in delayed and cancelled journeys. Given how long it takes to train a driver and the almost predatory poaching of Northern’s drivers by larger rail operators, there will not be a quick fix to the problem.

In the summer I spent a day with Northern Rail on the Calder Valley line and at Leeds train station, as the best way to understand where the problems are is to spend time with people at the coalface. It was both fascinating and terrifying to see just how fragmented and dysfunctional rail in the north is. My worry is that without investment in enhancing rail capacity across the north, both at the stations and on the tracks, we are setting up any train operating company or model to fail.

How can we both deliver a rail service that is fit for purpose and shrink carbon emissions from transport? I thank Stephen Waring of the Halifax and District rail action group for his unwavering attention to detail on all things rail-related. HADRAG launched its electric railway charter in May 2018.

The “Northern Sparks” report by the North of England Electrification Task Force was published in 2015, and its purpose was to advise the Government on where they should focus their investment. The report recommended full electrification of the Calder Valley line as its first priority. Sadly, there has been no progress to date. I fear that, for all the anguish about the state of the railways in my part of the world, the current proposals lack any sense of ambition. Even the most common-sense, low-key improvements, which have been identified time and again as essential, take far too long to deliver, if they are delivered at all.

Network Rail planned an upgrade scheme back in 2014 to provide two extra through platforms at Manchester Piccadilly and increased capacity at Oxford Road station. The scheme has been with three different Secretaries of State over five years, and still no progress. Without it, we will continue to see delays and cancellations right across the region, not least on the Calder Valley line.

At Leeds station, which has become another crippling bottleneck, a single new platform is being built to increase capacity, but it is not expected to be finished for at least another year. We need to take a good look at why even the most necessary works have taken so long to deliver and at what can be done to speed up the process to ensure Network Rail projects are a reality for passengers without the years of stalling, red tape and endless reviews we are currently seeing.

Finally, the failings of rail in the north are in no way the responsibility of frontline staff. The vast majority of Northern Rail’s workforce are good people who are doing their best in an incredibly challenging operating environment. I am pleased that the Secretary of State was able to reassure them, when Northern was taken into public ownership, that their jobs are safe and that improvements to staff facilities will be forthcoming.

If we are to meet our targets for decarbonisation and end our contribution to global emissions by 2050, adopting rail in a serious way will be the most obvious route to driving down transport emissions. By investing in rail infrastructure, we can simultaneously unlock the potential of the north. People want to use trains, so we will not have an uphill struggle to change behaviour, as there is clearly already demand. It is up to this Government to rise to the challenge and deliver a rail service that is both good for passengers and good for the planet.

Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Conservative, Poole 5:58 pm, 5th February 2020

I think the Government are doing a good job, as they have both reduced emissions and kept the economy rolling. The key policy has to be to create jobs and wealth while having a cleaner environment, so we need to be patted on the back, rather than criticised. We can still make progress, but things are going pretty well as they are.

If we want to make quick progress, we have to invest in roads and pinch points to stop congestion. That is the best way to get a quick economic hit. If we want to make a big difference through public transport, it has to be buses.

HS2 has been part of this debate, and I had some small role in it by chairing the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill Select Committee. My right hon. and learned Friend Jeremy Wright made a good and well-balanced speech. He and many other Members have had a high-speed rail line landed on their constituencies, which creates a number of great difficulties, particularly because of the long timeframe of any such developments. The public think that schemes are produced by people in Whitehall, who know all the answers, the scheme is then in a filing cabinet and they just will not tell them things because they do not want to tell them. The reality is that these things often are designed, with the detail done, well down the line, by which time people have lost faith in the organisation.

In the 20 months that I was chairing the Committee, I came to the view that, on balance, HS2 is a correct thing to do. We have capacity constraints on the west coast main line and if we put a fast line in, which takes all the commuter traffic, it opens up all sorts of opportunities for freight and for various communities. If we do that, we have to see HS2 in terms not of one line, but of the enhancement of the whole rail network. That does not mean we should not be responsive to people affected or that we should not give them fair compensation. A lot more has to be done by HS2 Ltd to interact with members of the public and Members of Parliament affected, but the scheme is a good one, which I still support. It will make a big difference over 20 to 30 years. The good thing about it is that it is a strategic decision, and it will lead to considerable work and a considerable increase in capacity.

Most of the money spent on the scheme will be on the stations and on redevelopment. The key point is that we are spending about £2 billion on Euston—whether that is a good or bad amount of money, the fact is that it will have a big effect in Camden; we are spending money on Old Oak Common, where there is to be a station; we will be spending money on Solihull international, where there will be housing, offices and development; and we will be spending money rebuilding Birmingham Curzon Street, which creates all sorts of opportunities—there will be offices, houses and all sorts of things in the centre of Birmingham and points north. So we should not look at the line purely in terms of the line; we should look at it in terms of the opportunities as we build new stations all the way up it. That is why Stoke-on-Trent petitioned our Committee for the line to go through Stoke-on-Trent. People there see an opportunity for their community. At the moment, the line is going through Crewe, which also sees an opportunity. Although people in the south worry about the line and the impact on communities, many in the midlands and the north see it as a great opportunity for them. So I suspect that, as the project gets under way, as I hope it will, there will be many arguments between colleagues about why the railway should be going through their communities, not around them, because of the impact it will have in areas of the north.

If we are going to be a country that represents the whole nation, if we are going to join up north and south, if we are going to have redevelopment, we have to build HS2. It is expensive. The payback time on most of these major projects is probably 100 years, rather than 20 or 30 years. Most of the Victorians who developed the railways went bust, but they have left us with a wonderful legacy. I think we should support this project.

Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health and Social Care) 6:02 pm, 5th February 2020

I thank the Labour Front-Bench team for moving this motion, and I welcome the unanimity across the Chamber, and the growing sense of urgency among the public, on taking tougher action on the climate emergency. The question arises as to whether the political rhetoric matches the reality in terms of policy and action.

So the two areas I wish to focus on briefly are rail and aviation. The motion calls for a cut in rail fares while the Government fix the mess that is the railways. Sorting out that mess has to start with the travesty of a “service”—if we can even call it that—that is South Western Railway. SWR dominates my email inbox and my Twitter feed. Commuters in my constituency are reliant on SWR and they are at their wits’ end, as not a day goes by without problems: lost income; lost working hours; lost time with loved ones; missed medical appointments; and just the general stress of not being able to get a rail service that is not constantly delayed or cancelled. This is just not acceptable. Those who live on the Shepperton line, which serves Hampton, are disproportionately affected, because it is a branch service, which is often cut. On other lines, such as the Teddington loop, there are regularly skips of stations when trains are delayed. Residents are telling me that as a matter of course they are driving part of their journey, which is not helping to cut emissions. All that is coupled with the 27-day strikes we saw in December, where there was no proper compensation, and the financial situation the company finds itself in. As the Secretary of State has said, the situation is unsustainable. I have written to him to ask for a meeting to discuss this matter, and I hope he will get back to me, granting me and other colleagues a meeting to discuss this important issue.

We need to do much more to expand our railways if we are to tempt people out of their cars and away from domestic flights, in order to reduce emissions. So I particularly welcome the motion’s call to bring aviation emissions within the UK’s climate targets. It is therefore somewhat surprising—no, negligent—that neither this Opposition motion, nor anything we have heard from those on the Government Benches today calls for the cancellation of a third runway at Heathrow.

I am disappointed that the amendment that I tabled with Liberal Democrat colleagues has not been selected for debate. Heathrow is the UK’s biggest single source of carbon emissions, and a third runway would increase carbon emissions by up to 9 million tonnes, making achieving net zero significantly harder. Indeed, the Committee on Climate Change said in 2016 that the construction of a third runway might break the Government’s own climate change laws. How can the Conservatives or Labour be serious about their commitment to tackle climate change unless they join my Liberal Democrat colleagues and me in calling very clearly for a third runway to be cancelled?

Heathrow expansion is projected to increase the number of flights by 300,000 annually. My constituents and many other people across south-west London already have their lives blighted by noise and air pollution, and over half a million people in the area surrounding Heathrow suffer noise levels above World Health Organisation standards. There is air pollution from surface transport, as well as particulates from flights, which go well beyond the airport boundary, despite the claims of Heathrow and, indeed, the Department for Transport. According to some studies, particulates travel up to 16 to 22 km downwind.

The Prime Minister does not even have to keep his promise of lying down in front of the bulldozers to stop a third runway. He has the power to cancel it at the stroke of a pen, and it is time that Labour came off the fence. Its spokesperson suggested that it might be shifting its policy. Heathrow expansion is bad for climate, bad for our health and wellbeing, and—

Photo of Jack Brereton Jack Brereton Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South 6:06 pm, 5th February 2020

I recently raised the subject of public transport in north Staffordshire in my debate in Westminster Hall because, as our local newspaper, The Sentinel, highlighted, its decline in the Potteries has been faster than in England as a whole. Bus use in north Staffordshire has declined by more than 10% in the past year alone. The decline in public transport and the growth of congestion has seen us breach World Health Organisation limits for air quality. Our bus services are just not good enough.

In north Staffordshire, the journey time taken by a bus can be over double that for a car, sometimes easily treble or worse due to the loss of direct cross-city routes. Locally, Conservatives have plans to fix our poor public transport. Key to the plans for improved public transport in north Staffordshire is the superbus proposal. High-frequency, high-priority bus services would operate on a network of cross-city routes, creating a bus-based urban transport system. Travel costs would be attractive, capped at £3 for a day ticket.

With hard cash already promised from the Transforming Cities fund, we are looking at little short of a revolution in seamless public transport for north Staffordshire. An essential part of the Transforming Cities bid is improving interconnectivity between rail and bus, including at Longton station in my constituency, which will undergo major improvements if we get the full ask in the second round. I hope that we have the full support of Government. I am delighted by the new announcement of funding to reopen stations and rail lines. I am campaigning to reopen Meir station in my constituency, and there is a definite feeling that, as for Stoke-on-Trent itself, the trajectory for rail locally is on the up.

The economy in Stoke-on-Trent and wider north Staffordshire is now one of the fastest growing in the country, and needs comprehensive transport connectivity. I thank my hon. Friend Sir Robert Syms for his comments. If HS2 is given the go-ahead, it is essential that it serves Stoke-on-Trent. To remove the Handsacre link that facilitates services to Stafford, Stoke and Macclesfield at this point would be of huge detriment to what we have achieved locally.

HS2 should not just be about infrastructure and addressing issues of capacity. It should be about a step-change in those areas that have been left behind historically. If there is anywhere where the Governments agenda of levelling up resonates, it is Stoke-on-Trent. We are developing Stoke-on-Trent’s urban regeneration and inward investment strategies, and have received private investment on the assumption that HS2 will be completed in full. That investment has been made viable in the expectation that HS2 services will stop at Stoke, which has an extremely low-value property market. Our communities suffer from some of the worst levels of multiple deprivation in the country. Opening up our communities to new job prospects will help to improve life chances and living costs.

We have a strong vision for our area that builds on the economic resurgence we have seen under Conservative leadership, both nationally and locally. It is essential that we now deliver for the people who put us into government. The benefits of the Handsacre link, in terms of additional passenger capacity and unlocked freight capacity on the west coast main line, are clear. I urge the Government to back Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire by levelling-up our connectivity and connecting us to HS2. We can be one of the leading contributors to global Britain if our potential is unleashed.

In conclusion, improving transport in Stoke-on-Trent is critical for our economy and for opportunities for local people. Whether it is in respect of local bus or rail, or through HS2, we must benefit from the investment needed to revolutionise local connectivity. Conservative leadership has produced a clear vision, through initiatives such as the Transforming Cities fund and superbus. I hope that we will receive the Department’s and the Government’s support in levelling-up Stoke-on-Trent and ensuring that we can reach our true potential.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee 6:10 pm, 5th February 2020

Recent years have seen a rise in emissions, largely caused by increased traffic growth, which is encouraged by an ever-expanding road building programme. Although the Government are expanding roads, they are not concentrating on safety, which is specifically what I want to focus on.

My constituent Jason Mercer was killed last summer on an all-lane running section of the M1 in South Yorkshire. All-lane running is often branded by Highways England and civil servants as “smart motorways”. It is not. All-lane running means using the hard shoulder as a permanent live traffic lane without fitting the required safety features. Mr Mercer and another motorist were forced to stop, following a minor collision. Without a hard shoulder, they were left vulnerable and exposed in a live lane when one of their vehicles was struck by a lorry, killing both men instantly. The lack of hard shoulder also meant that the men eventually had to be airlifted out because there was no other way for the emergency services to reach them.

The same 16-mile stretch of the M1 that claimed Jason’s life has seen five fatalities in just 10 months. Nationally, the number of fatalities on “smart motorways” continues to rise at an alarming rate. The Secretary of State recently announced that no further smart motorway schemes would begin until the outcome of the Government review of their safety. He has insisted that smart motorways must be at least as safe as traditional motorways or should not proceed. That is most welcome, but what about the existing death traps?

I want to be extremely clear: all-lane running is fundamentally flawed. It is profoundly unsafe. The existing sections need to be reverted back to roads with a hard shoulder, with immediate effect. If we keep all-lane running open, more people will die, simply to increase motorway capacity on the cheap. That is not hyperbole. Yesterday, The Times detailed a 2012 report by the Highways Agency—the precursor to Highways England—that stated that for the 10 miles of the M1 that borders my constituency, the Highways Agency had decided not to include the planned safety features, as that would increase the cost of the scheme by between £1 million and £2 million—just under 2% of the total budget. There have been five deaths in the past 10 months on that stretch of motorway, for a saving of £1 million to £2 million. Each death, in near identical situations, was because Highways England’s penny-pinching meant that the safety features were never installed.

Highways England knew that rolling out all-lane running would result in deaths. That is not speculation: Jim O’Sullivan, the chief executive of Highways England, told the Transport Committee on 23 October 2019 that that was the case—that by avoiding the safety features, he was likely to see deaths. We have seen deaths. Highways England knew that the all-lane running motorways would kill. Someone, somewhere will have signed off a report that identified the risks and put a figure on the cost of saving lives—a cost that they decided it was not worth spending the money on. I have supported Jason Mercer’s widow, Claire, in her campaign. She is now looking to sue Highways England for corporate manslaughter. It is clear that Highways England knowingly failed in its duty of care to motorists.

A key safety feature that Highways England decided to scrimp on in South Yorkshire was refuges. We originally should have had six on our stretch of road, but we do not have them. Stopping the roll-out will not save lives on my stretch of road and in other constituencies. Will the Minister please, please revert all-lane running back to where it was—roads with a hard shoulder—until the money is found to put the safety features in place? If the Government cannot find the money, the roads should be left as they are, with a hard shoulder.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman Conservative, Fareham 6:14 pm, 5th February 2020

I start by commending the Government’s track record on transport. Spending £100 billion on infrastructure across the nation to improve our roads, railways and broadband is an unprecedented commitment to our national circulation. I am glad that it is this Conservative Government who are confidently leading the way.

I want to raise three issues. First, I am incredibly excited, thanks to the support from the Transforming Cities fund, about the proposals for the new South East Hampshire rapid transit system in the Solent region, where Fareham is located. We need to make it easier, quicker and more convenient for people to use public transport in the Solent area, and the proposals of Portsmouth City Council, Hampshire County Council and the Isle of Wight will significantly improve transport links between Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and the Isle of Wight.

The new network will eventually serve 14 large development sites, consisting of about 17,000 new homes. It will build on the success of the Eclipse route and provide a new rapid transport corridor, running from Gosport to Fareham bus station, the Delme roundabout and Portchester, and on to Portsmouth and Waterlooville. It will include high-quality, frequent services; a single and simple ticketing system; push notifications with travel information for passengers; bus priority lanes; an enhanced park and ride system; and cleaner, greener low-emission vehicles. I wholeheartedly support the scheme and look forward to its continued progress.

Secondly, on smart motorways, the M27 is the main expressway artery going through my constituency, connecting Portsmouth and Southampton, and several junctions lie in Fareham. Thousands of people in Fareham use that motorway daily. I understand that motorways are dangerous—there is no doubt about that. Many motorists, including me, are often nervous about driving on a motorway, but for the many thousands of people in Fareham who use the M27, which is in the process of being converted into a smart motorway, the prospect of using it is becoming terrifying.

In the past five years, 38 people have been killed on smart motorways, according to a recent “Panorama” programme, and there have been 1,485 near misses on the M25 alone. Many local people in Fareham are concerned about safety. The refuge areas on some smart motorways can be up to 1.5 miles apart, when they should be located every 600 metres. The obvious problem with that is that vehicles do not always break down at a refuge area. The technology for smart motorways is not always responsive or effective. Many people in Fareham are calling for the smart motorway upgrade on the M27 to be scrapped and reversed.

I welcome the Government’s recent announcement of a review of the smart motorway programme nationally. I ask them seriously to question the safety measures in place, and to consider whether a hard shoulder could be reintroduced on parts of the motorway. We need to improve the robustness of the safety measures so that public confidence can be restored.

Finally, junction 10 has been a headache for Fareham for far too long. The junction urgently requires an upgrade into an all-moves junction, so that the infrastructure can enable the strategic development area of Welborne, a proposal for 6,000 new homes in my constituency of Fareham. That will greatly improve economic activity and benefit the region. However, we face a situation that could prove terminal for Welborne. Construction cannot take place without that junction, but we face a £40 million funding gap. I urge the Government to support me and others in Fareham to make Welborne and junction 10 happen.

Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall 6:18 pm, 5th February 2020

Transport is the most carbon-emitting sector of the economy, with emissions higher now than they were in 2010. Under the Tories, road traffic growth has soared while support for public transport has been stunted. We are now one of the most car-dependent countries in the whole of Europe. If we are serious about stopping the climate crisis and creating a future fit for our children and grandchildren, we must do more to promote sustainable forms of transport and active travel.

My constituents in Ealing, Southall are heavily dependent on public transport. I am strongly supportive of the local campaign to enable step-free access at Northfields, Boston Manor and South Ealing stations. The Government and Transport for London must do more to ensure that access can be improved for disabled passengers, which will help build confidence and safeguard independence.

Although those working in the public transport sector have worked tirelessly to improve services—I must declare an interest at this point, as I started my working life as a bus conductor for London Transport, so I am quite familiar with this work—they are hamstrung by the Government and a privatised system that is failing them. Rail fares are up by over 40% since 2010, having risen twice as fast as wages. Over the same period, 3,000 bus routes across the country have been cut or withdrawn, leading to soaring fares and crowded buses. That has had a corrosive effect on our high streets and local communities. It has also reduced the independence of the groups that are particularly reliant on public transport, including older people, women and those with a disability.

The Conservative Government have demonstrably failed in their aim to create and maintain a fit-for-purpose public transport system. Instead of paying lip service to looking after our planet, the Government must reverse their cuts to help reduce our damaging dependency on cars. The case for a substantial programme of investment in public transport is clear.

I was shocked to discover that just 2% of journeys in the UK are made by bicycle. A chronic lack of investment in active travel has led to our becoming one of the worst-performing countries in Europe. Increasing investment and reshaping our cycling and walking strategies will help to improve air quality and arrest the growing public health crisis caused by an inactive lifestyle. Through a programme of infrastructural investment, we will not only reconnect and restore the fabric of our local communities but tackle the climate emergency—the gravest threat that humanity has ever faced.

Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 6:21 pm, 5th February 2020

I listened carefully to the shadow Secretary of State’s opening speech, and was curious about his comments regarding investment in buses. Across Cornwall, we have seen the roll-out of a brand new fleet of buses that are easy-access and have audio-visual information, as do many bus stops. In addition, we have had £23.5 million to pilot an even greater public transport system on our roads, with reduced ticket fares and the greatest investment in rail links since the time of Brunel and the introduction of the railway in Cornwall.

There is an appetite across Cornwall to decarbonise transport, and the work under way between Cornish MPs, the Government and Cornwall Council to deliver that is ambitious and welcome, and will continue. We will get more people out of their cars and on to public transport. However, I see no conflict between the road improvements and reducing our carbon footprint. In fact, reducing car congestion by improving roads contributes to cleaner air, and a reduction in harmful emissions must be an essential object of the Government’s infra- structure programme.

It will come as no surprise to Ministers that I wish to talk about the A30. The single-carriageway A30 between Cambourne and Penzance is the main route in and out of west Cornwall, and it no longer meets the demand, irrespective of the mode of transport or the fuel used to power vehicles—diesel, petrol or electric. Residents are rightly fed up with the congestion, regular accidents and incidents, and poor air quality. Will the Secretary of State and his team look again at the need to commit to a route appraisal for that section of road as part of RIS2?

Let me turn to the need to deliver a resilient, affordable and accessible transport link between the Isles of Scilly and Penzance. The current transport provision is the primary cause of concern for residents on Scilly, who rely on that link to provide the goods and food they need; the most affordable method of transport for passengers, including to and from medical appointments; and the main method of travel for tourism, which accounts for the lion’s share of the local economy. I refer the Secretary of State and his team to current dialogue between the local transport board and his Department regarding the provision of cash to work up a plan to deliver a resilient, affordable and accessible transport link between Scilly and Penzance.

Finally, as more and more people switch to electric cars, will the Minister meet me to consider the implications of that? A vibrant tourism sector such as mine in west Cornwall relies on good transport networks, and public transport is nowhere near to offering a viable alternative for most tourists. Lots of people arrive for their holidays at roughly the same time and on the same days. The implication is that lots of electric vehicles will need to be charged. How we provide the charging capacity for hotels, resorts and camping and caravan sites has not been properly considered, but the challenge is fast approaching.

In summary, consideration of the A30 in RIS2 will be welcome; support to deliver a resilient and affordable transport link to Scilly is vital; and consideration must be given to radically increasing charging capacity and infrastructure, to ensure that Cornwall remains a location of choice to decarbonise, detox and unwind for hard-working families.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 6:25 pm, 5th February 2020

I welcome the £220 million announced recently by the Government for bus investment. Mine is the only constituency in the whole United Kingdom that has a British-owned bus-building company. That is an essential strategic measure by the Government, especially if they invest in bus building in Northern Ireland. It will affect every constituency in this country, whether in Aberdeen or Cornwall, because it is a bus-building company owned by British entrepreneurs and invested in by British taxpayers. It is also the home of the hydrogen bus. The opportunity is in our hands to make Northern Ireland and, indeed, the UK the flagship for hydrogen power as a public transport solution and a world leader in use of that zero-emissions product and world-leading technology.

Hydrogen power is much more advanced and cleaner than battery power. Batteries are a fantastic opportunity for cars and other vehicles, but we must remember that if we buy a battery car, the entire battery component will need to be replaced in seven years’ time. Of the old battery component, 50% gets recycled, and the other 50% can only go to landfill, increasing a problem that we must still address.

I welcome the £1 billion investment in a battery gigafactory here in the United Kingdom. That is a great opportunity, but it pales into insignificance when we consider that China has monopolised world battery production. Indeed, one factory alone on the Chinese mainland employs 260,000 people. We cannot catch up with world battery production, so our nation needs to lead the way with new technology and solutions such as hydrogen power, which was mentioned by the Secretary of State—and I believe we can.

Jo Bamford, with his Ryse technology and the Bamford Bus Company, and Hugo Spowers, with his Riversimple Rasa hydrogen car, have demonstrated that entrepreneurs are looking at ways of using hydrogen power as a new solution beyond batteries. Batteries are fantastic for lightweight, short-range applications, but hydrogen offers a solution for distance and heavyweight vehicles such as buses, lorries, trains and ferries. Who knows what it could offer in the future for aviation? Members today have talked about low emissions for transport, but hydrogen is a zero-emissions solution, so let us grasp it. What plans do the Government have for hydrogen investment in the United Kingdom? What can they offer to investors in innovative new technologies that will turn waste into energy?

I support the third runway at Heathrow, which is a brilliant opportunity for investment and aviation. Some 51% of people who fly from Northern Ireland to England are coming here to do business. We need a third runway because Heathrow has reached capacity. We have to remember that 95% of the global economy lies within reach of a single direct flight from Heathrow. Heathrow has facilitated £118 billion of trade outside the EU in the last 12 months alone. It is a wonderful airport, and it must—

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

No, we are not destroying our planet; don’t be silly. Accelerating investment in sustainable alternative fuels will only happen if we increase air passenger travel.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth 6:29 pm, 5th February 2020

We know full well the challenges of and the solutions to climate change, and we all know just how worried our constituents are about this crisis. Only this morning, at Smallberry Green Primary School in Isleworth, I got asked about climate change not just by a year 5 student, but by a year 2 student.

Transport is the largest sector for emissions, and it is the sector cutting emissions the least. Within transport, the sector with the fastest growing emissions is aviation. During the time that emissions from the economy as a whole have fallen by 40%, aviation emissions have more than doubled. Passenger numbers are set to increase by 70%, and that growth is not business travel. Over half of the British population do not fly at all in any given year, but the highest 15% of the UK population by income are taking over 70% of all our flights. The growth is in outbound leisure travel, with UK-based tourists in the top income bands taking their holiday money away from the UK three or more times a year, including from places such as those represented by Derek Thomas. That is money that many of those in our beautiful places would be delighted to see spent here.

The aviation industry mentions magical solutions that will allow it to continue with a business-as-usual approach in a carbon-constrained world, but electric planes—particularly for short haul and long haul—will not be online until 2050 at the absolute earliest. There is no current industry development for these longer flights. For example, long-haul planes make up 70% of UK air travel, yet there is no current development for electric planes going on in those areas.

Yesterday, the chief executive of Heathrow airport was on the radio talking about sustainable fuels for aviation, but we know that a rise in biofuels will only lead to more deforestation. This means more habitats destroyed, more communities displaced and more carbon emissions. Carbon offsetting by planting trees only removes, years from now, the carbon emitted today. It is not an alternative to cutting emissions in the first place.

Obviously, the chief executive of Heathrow Airport Ltd dearly wants a third runway, but even Department for Transport figures—from work done in the run-up to the vote in this place in 2018—show that the additional passengers using runway 3 will almost all be UK-based passengers taking leisure flights overseas. Expansion will draw long-haul flights away from regional airports, thus impacting on their direct international connections. Furthermore, expanding Heathrow will mean an extra 6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

I am glad that the Labour Front-Bench team led by my hon. Friend Andy McDonald concluded in June 2018 that Heathrow expansion is incompatible with our climate change obligations and that Labour would not authorise Heathrow expansion or any other plans that jeopardise those climate targets. The solution we should be promoting—the only carbon-saving solution for aviation that will make a difference before 2050, when electric planes come online—is to address the growth in demand. We need to stop runway 3 at Heathrow, address the pricing disparity between rail and flying, and implement a frequent flyer levy to replace air passenger duty.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. I am sorry, but I have to reduce the time limit to three minutes.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston 6:33 pm, 5th February 2020

Some 78% of people in Ellesmere Port and Neston use private motor transport to get to work, compared with a national average of 63%. Perhaps in a constituency known for building cars that is not so much of a surprise, but I think it is more a reflection of the poor public transport links we have. It seems that for much of the last decade we have, every couple of months, faced a battle to save bus services that are already inadequate. Sometimes we persuade the bus company to keep the route and sometimes it will retain the service with a slightly different route, but sometimes we lose the route altogether. We then see people who rely on a bus to get to work, to care for their family or to access medical appointments left high and dry, usually at just a few weeks’ notice.

We need to take back control of the bus network. We need a locally directed bus network designed to meet the needs of the local community, so that we are no longer at the mercy of commercial considerations and so that people, no matter where they live, are never too far away from a regular, reliable bus service. We can spend billions of pounds on shaving 20 minutes off the journey time from Crewe to London, but we still cannot guarantee the most basic bus service for many of our citizens. How are people supposed to be able to get work in certain places if they just cannot get there? How is one of the biggest employers in my constituency, Cheshire Oaks, expected to maximise the number of local young people it employs if they cannot get home from work after six o’clock?

This picture is repeated up and down the country; no wonder so many young people feel they have no choice but to leave their home town and venture into the city. It is no wonder that we have a chronic loneliness and isolation problem when so many older people cannot get anywhere because the bus service has been cut.

I look forward to hearing the Government’s decision on HS2 shortly. If it goes ahead, I have supreme confidence that it will eventually be delivered over budget and late; I have considerably less confidence in whether it will bring any benefit to the north, and my constituency specifically. We have a real chance of delivering real benefits to the north through HS2 if the project is accompanied by a meaningful rail investment programme across the whole of the north, alongside a concerted effort to attract new businesses to the north; otherwise, advertising the benefits of getting to London quicker will probably encourage more businesses to locate in London than the other way around.

My constituency is a perfect example of why rail investment must be matched pound for pound in the north. If I want to travel the 30 miles from Ellesmere Port to Crewe by rail, I have to get on three separate trains and the journey will take around an hour and a half. It will probably end up taking longer than the whole of the rest of the journey from Crewe to London.

Finally, in the time I have left I want to say a few words about the Mersey Gateway tolls. I make no apologies for raising this subject again because the same basic unfairness of that system is still there. We have repeatedly heard from Ministers about how tolls being removed can improve an area’s economic performance, such as in south Wales and Scotland, and there are no toll crossings in Northern Ireland and none in London either. Some 90% of road crossings are toll-free except in Merseyside. That needs to end.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East 6:36 pm, 5th February 2020

Aviation emissions in the UK have more than doubled since 1990. The Government plan to build a third runway at Heathrow airport and according to the Department for Transport projections for Heathrow expansion, the UK’s legally binding targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 will be missed. While there is an economic argument for expanding Heathrow airport, there are clear legitimate concerns about the environmental impact and a need to reform the aviation sector.

In Lewisham East, residents have been, and are, suffering from concentrated flight paths from City and Heathrow airports. Rebecca, who represents many constituents, wrote to me to say:

“We strongly oppose City airport’s plan to increase flights by 45% and to abolish the 24 hour no flying rule at the weekend.”

She was woken at 5 am by a low-flying City airport flight. The Government must conduct a review of the impact of concentrated flight paths across Lewisham East and south London that fully assesses inequalities. Our poorer and more diverse areas have been subjected more to overhead flights.

Jessica, another constituent, says:

“I have noticed a definite increase in large aircraft frequency and consequent noise. Obviously, this concerns me for daily disturbance and environmental reasons.”

So constituents are writing to me expressing their concerns and worries.

Another constituent was diagnosed as suffering from a low-frequency noise:

“It is an extremely depressing, debilitating and painful condition”,

she said to me.

Last summer, I held a public meeting on this issue. The room was filled with residents who had come together to discuss this concern. The fact that flight paths from City and Heathrow airports are currently overlapping means planes arriving at City airport must fly lower and for longer. This has created corridors of noise that reach unacceptable levels and increase emissions, which are affecting my community.

Air waves, and sound and noise from flying aircraft need to be regulated. The proposals in City airport’s draft masterplan to lift the restrictions on flights in the evening and at weekends to significantly increase the number of flights are unacceptable and would mean that residents had no respite from excess noise, which would have a detrimental effect on their wellbeing.

According to the World Health Organisation, noise is the second largest environmental cause of health problems, just after the impact of air quality. My constituents cannot tolerate the present flight paths and certainly cannot tolerate increases to their flight paths caused by City airport or Heathrow.

I call on the Government to take action to significantly reduce aviation emissions, to review the impact of concentrated flights across Lewisham East and south London, to conduct an equalities impact assessment, and to introduce regulation to prohibit sound waves from exceeding acceptable world health limits.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Labour, Putney 6:39 pm, 5th February 2020

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak on this very important issue for residents of Putney, Roehampton and Southfields. As hon. Members have rightly pointed out, transport issues, social justice and climate action go hand in hand. My constituents know this only too well. I would like to outline some of the major transport issues they are facing, which are interlinked.

First, on Heathrow airport expansion, a third runway will stop us being able to reach our carbon emissions reduction target. It will be a disaster for my constituents in Putney and, as other hon. Members have said, across south-west London. Their quality of life and health will be blighted: some 260,000 extra flights a year deliberately routed over our green spaces, dumping carbon and particulates on important habitats such as Putney Heath as well as on residents; an increase in carbon dioxide emissions from air travel by 9 million tonnes a year; and 2.2 million people impacted by increases in aircraft noise.

For my constituents in Putney, those effects will be acutely felt. They will not have any daytime respite at all from aircraft noise on half of all days when planes are operating in a westerly direction. We will have planes flying overhead almost continually for approximately three days out of four. This will put an unbearable strain on the sleeping patterns and the health and wellbeing of my constituents. That is not to mention the inevitable increase in air pollution that a third runway and expansion will bring. Putney already suffers from some of the worst air toxicity levels in London. This is the last thing we need. In light of our legally binding climate change targets and the declaration of a climate emergency, I request that the Minister reviews the national policy statement and cancels the expansion plans.

Secondly, South Western Railway is causing endless misery for my constituents who rely on that service to commute and to get around. For two years, there have been frequent delays, cancellations and dangerously overcrowded services. I am glad the Transport Secretary has recognised the problem. I hope he will meet me soon to talk about next steps.

Delays on the District line have been terrible. The modernisation project must go on, but the upgrade has to be faster and we need a lift at East Putney station. The Alton estate in Roehampton is about to undergo a major regeneration, but that will work only if transport plans come in behind it. Otherwise, people will not be able to get to work and it will fail. Transport is not joining up with this regeneration, and I ask the Minister to look at the situation.

Finally, on air pollution, we need far more infrastructure for cycling. There just has not been enough in the whole of Wandsworth. I commend the work of Little Ninja and the Putney Society on this issue. Far more needs to be done.

In conclusion, my constituents will not accept any more half measures, half-hearted apologies or half-baked excuses on transport from either service providers or the Government.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools) 6:42 pm, 5th February 2020

When His Excellency the President of China Xi Jinping visited my constituency in 2015, he spoke eloquently about 30 years of the twinning arrangement between Manchester and Wuhan. I want to say on the record that the prayers of Manchester are with the people of Wuhan as they try to contain the coronavirus.

Pope Francis said, five years ago in his seminal encyclical “Laudato Si’”, that we should hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Economic productivity goes hand in hand with social justice, and I think that that is the essence of the debate. I just want to touch, in the few minutes I have, on how it impacts on my constituency.

First, 28 million passengers go through Manchester Airport—some might say that I have the most visited constituency in the north of England—but we need a more sustainable aviation industry. HS2 will reduce journey times from two hours, 24 minutes from my constituency to London to 59 minutes. That is an incredible amount, but it is not about the speed; it is about releasing capacity on the west coast main line. Tens of millions of freight trucks could be taken off the road and on to our railways. Metrolink needs to be expanded through my constituency. We need the bid that has gone in to the Government—for Metrolink to be able to go from the current stop at Manchester Airport to the new terminal, and eventually to loop right around my constituency—to succeed,. because we know that is a green way to travel.

I have some sympathy for Northern Rail. The Government did invest in the Ordsall Chord and connect Piccadilly railway station to Victoria railway station, but we are still waiting for a decision on platforms 15 and 16. There is a bottleneck across the north, and whoever is operating rail in the north will still have to deal with that bottleneck.

I am pleased with Stagecoach in my constituency, at Sharston bus depot. It has committed to making every bus going through my constituency electric in the next few years. We need the national infrastructure fund to help Mayor Burnham and Chris Boardman, our excellent cycling and walking commissioner, with our network in Manchester—£43 billion needs to be spent on cities outside London.

Finally, air quality has been mentioned. Up to 1,200 people die annually in Greater Manchester because we have the poorest air quality in the country. That has to change by having a joined-up transport system with lower emissions. We need to level up outside the south-east.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses) 6:45 pm, 5th February 2020

It is an honour to close today’s debate. There can be no doubt that tackling the climate change emergency is the most pressing problem facing our country and, indeed, the wider world. Today’s debate has reflected both the urgency and the overriding importance of that issue, and I want to highlight a series of contributions from colleagues across the House.

Some powerful speeches were made highlighting the rising emissions from transport, particularly from road transport, and important points were made about the pressing need to end our addiction to car use, with calls for more investment in public transport, walking and cycling. I also point out the need to go further and reduce the need to drive in the first place by encouraging new development that puts housing near places where people work and where public transport is easily accessible.

The contribution by Huw Merriman was very thoughtful. My hon. Friend Bridget Phillipson rightly raised the issue of investment in the north of England, and I found the speech by Jeremy Wright interesting in highlighting the importance of high-speed rail, even if he has some issues with HS2.

Other notable contributions were made by a range of speakers, including a number who referenced the need for much greater investment in rail. My hon. Friends the Members for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) and for Halifax (Holly Lynch), the hon. Members for Poole (Sir Robert Syms) and for Twickenham (Munira Wilson), and my hon. Friend Mr Sharma all mentioned the importance of rail investment across the country. There was also an interesting speech by Jack Brereton calling for more investment in buses. Many other contributions were made.

Above all, I remind the House of the key points that were made the shadow Transport Secretary, my hon. Friend Andy McDonald, who called for urgent action by the Government. He said rightly that the challenge is no longer abstract; it is now a very real and devastating reality. Those points were all important, and I believe that the contributions today reflected Members’ deep concerns about the climate emergency. Sincere views are held across the House about the enormous challenge that we now face.

It is interesting that there is also an emerging consensus in the House, among the public and among the business community about the scale of the issue and the need for an urgent response. What is needed now, above all, is a plan for determined action. The Government have a working majority, and it is clearly the duty of Ministers to address this challenge as a matter of urgency. However, the question facing the House is whether the Government have the political will to rise to the challenge, or whether Ministers will continue to fail to acknowledge the scale of the task that we face. As my hon. Friend said, so far the record is clear, and I am afraid that it is one of the Government failing to step up to the challenge.

The coalition Government and the last two Conservative Administrations have presided over rising carbon dioxide emissions from transport, due largely to increased pollution from road vehicles. At the same time, rail fares have increased dramatically, hundreds of bus services have been cut, and walking and cycling growth is flatlining, with the Government missing their targets to increase active travel.

The failure to tackle rising emissions at a time of climate crisis is simply unacceptable. What is needed now is a completely and utterly different approach, and it is clear from the progress being made by other countries, the Labour Mayors of our great cities and the Welsh Government that investment in public transport and in walking and cycling works and delivers real and tangible change and benefits. Investing to cut carbon dioxide emissions is not only desirable, but absolutely essential.

I look forward to the Minister’s response to these points. I urge him to press his colleagues in the Treasury for the necessary resources and investment and for real incentives for behaviour change—both for drivers to scrap polluting vehicles and to encourage far greater use of public transport and far more walking and cycling.

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport) 6:49 pm, 5th February 2020

It is a great pleasure to close this debate on transport emissions and decarbonisation as the Government’s first ever Minister for the decarbonisation of transport. I want to begin, however, by saying that while we have been in this debate there has been an accident in Turkey. A passenger plane has skidded off a runway and there are reports of injuries. I know the whole House’s thoughts will be with those affected.

There have been many valuable contributions this afternoon. I cannot go through them all in the limited time available, but I want to congratulate Tahir Ali on his maiden speech. He talked powerfully about Kashmir and apprenticeships. I know more about one than the other, although I hitch- hiked through Kashmir 30 years ago and I recognise the beauty of the place he described. I also want to highlight the speech by my hon. Friend Huw Merriman, and to congratulate him on becoming Chair of the Transport Committee, and the speech by Sarah Champion, who has been running a powerful campaign on all-lane running on the M1, on which one of her constituents was killed. I thank her for the comments she made the other day in the Westminster Hall debate, which the Secretary State and I are taking very seriously.

My right hon. Friend Damian Hinds, the former Secretary of State for Education, spoke powerfully about the importance of pursuing the electrification and decarbonisation agenda in a way that goes with the grain of everyday travel to work, families and the realities of getting around our country, particularly in the last mile.

Munira Wilson raised the important issue of Heathrow. Whatever happens at Heathrow, we are committed to making sure that it does not damage our commitment to our climate change obligations. In response to Gavin Newlands, the SNP spokesman, I should make it clear that the UK Government want to support Scotland in its decarbonisation agenda. That is one reason why I am looking at hydrogen, which is a particular strength in the Scottish economy.

As Minister for the decarbonisation of transport, my brief, which has been worked through with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, is to dramatically accelerate the pace of progress on decarbonisation in transport, but I also look after disconnection and digitalisation. The two are connected. We must do more to tackle the disconnection of people and places left behind, the clusters held back, and the disconnection between agencies, not least those with responsibility for decarbonisation. The digitalisation of our transport networks—particularly the railways, but also the buses—can play a huge part in decarbonising our transport system and making it easier for passengers to make that modal shift.

The Prime Minister yesterday set out our groundbreaking commitment to be the first nation to ban diesel and hybrid cars after 2035, as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change. I am surprised we have not had more of a response and welcome for that from Opposition Members. They asked us to do it, and we have done it. It is a key step in tackling transport emissions and builds on our £1.5 billion investment in ultra low emission vehicles and our £400 million investment in charging infrastructure announced since the new Prime Minister and the Government took office.

We are looking across all modes of transport. On aviation, we have already committed to producing an aviation strategy looking to 2050 and beyond. We have made it clear that Heathrow expansion must meet strict criteria on air quality and noise and will not be allowed to materially affect the Government’s ability to meet our climate change obligations. On shipping, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Maritime Minister for launching our first clean maritime plan. The UK is one of the first countries to publish a domestic strategy to reduce shipping emissions—invisible to many but none the less hugely significant globally, particularly for this maritime nation. This followed the UK’s crucial role in the agreement of the International Maritime Organisation’s first strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. On rail, we have committed to getting rid of all diesel trains on the rail network by 2040, and we are looking at electrification and at hydrogen trains in the peripheral areas not likely to be electrified.

We will, however, go much further and faster than even this. I am clear that we want to make Brexit the moment when we step up to our global responsibilities to lead in the decarbonisation of transport and the growth of a green economy. That is why I am working with the Secretary of State on our first ever comprehensive transport decarbonisation plan, which Opposition Members might be interested to hear about, and which we will publish shortly. It will set out a groundbreaking approach to all modes, explaining how road, rail, shipping and aviation can reach net zero.

We will take a place-based approach, looking at the dirtiest motorway junctions, railway stations, ports and airports, and ensuring that everyone has a target that can be met. We want to establish the first ever digital metric for emissions per passenger per kilometre, and, using that metric, to drive “red, amber, green” digital mapping of emissions around the country. We are significantly increasing our research and development science budget, particularly in relation to hydrogen, biofuels and electric planes, to ensure that we have the technology that will help us in carbon budgets 5 and 6.

I also want to highlight the power of data and digital, which has traditionally been overlooked in this sector, but which I believe has a powerful role to play in harnessing our digital economy to ensure that we map and measure properly and empower consumers, through their phones and their local communities, to make the choices that will contribute to the driving down of emissions. I ask Members to imagine their Citymapper as a green carbon route-mapper, giving them points and allowing them to make informed choices about routes and how they can reduce carbon emissions. We can lead the digitalisation, as well as the place-based choices, that will drive modal shift.

I understand that behavioural change alone is not enough, which is why we are significantly increasing our R&D and technology spending. I am launching the first ever Department of Transport research strategy, and a list of priorities for the budget period is being prepared at this moment. We shall be considering hydrogen, biofuels and electric planes.

My aim in this decarb plan is to ensure that this country leads in both the policies and the science and technology to drive the decarbonisation of transport. Our new future transport strategy sets out a comprehensive plan to do two key things. The first is to make the UK a world leader in the testing, development and financing of innovation in transport, because it is an industrial strategy for global UK leadership. Secondly, it is a strategy for local, healthy, place-based neighbourhood choice to make it easier for households, families, communities and councils to drive the modal shift that we need. We believe that by doing both, we can get on track to hit carbon budgets 5 and 6.

I know that time is short: I have no more than 40 seconds left. Let me end by saying this. A number of colleagues have spoken about cycling, and we have committed £2.5 billion in this investment round and in this Parliament to double it. We have invested a further £200 million in buses, we have a £2 billion programme for decarbonisation, and there is £400 million for electric vehicle charging and another £400 million for hydrogen.

We are acting fast to repair decades of neglect. It is all very well for Opposition Members to laugh, but I do not remember their being able to set out such a record after 13 years in office. We have a grip on this issue. In view of the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow later this year, COP26, let me make very clear that this Government get it. We are also absolutely committed to making clear at that conference that we will make Brexit the moment at which we inspire a new generation, lead globally, and do that most Conservative thing of all, which is to leave our environment in a better condition than the one in which we found it.

Question put.

Division number 32 Transport

Aye: 181 MPs

No: 310 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

The House divided: Ayes 181, Noes 311.

Question accordingly negatived.