Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:13 pm on 20th June 2022.

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Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton 10:13 pm, 20th June 2022

I said there has not been enough debate. We have just had the Second Reading of the Crewe to Manchester hybrid Bill. There has been a great deal of debate all over the north-west about the link, particularly in Wigan and Leigh, but I was referring to debate in this Chamber, where it should be taking place and where, in the future, it will not be allowed because it is not part of the hybrid Bill.

It may or may not be coincidence that the decision was made. Other people from different political parties may agree with the hon. Member for Leigh, but if the Prime Minister wanted votes from the parliamentary Conservative party, he would not go to Wigan Council looking for those votes; he would go to his own Back-Benchers.

The second reason not to do with the Prime Minister is that this is simply about cuts. We saw £3 billion appear, and my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield made a persuasive argument that there is no cheaper option but only more expensive options. So, when they have spent time on this project from the very beginning, are the Government looking at ways of cutting it? Leeds and Yorkshire have lost out. Parts of the east-west link have gone. It looks to me as though, if it is not about votes for the Prime Minister, it is about cuts. I cannot see any real alternative explanation.

That brings me to an overall point that was also referred to by my hon. Friend. If one goes back 40 years to when this country first started looking at high-speed rail—I was a Manchester politician then, leader of the council, not a Member of Parliament—we were promised high-speed rail coming into Manchester Piccadilly when the cross-channel link was made, but it was cut. The trains were bought for that route. They used to say in French—