Spending Priorities: Autumn Statement

Transport – in the House of Commons on 24th November 2022.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary)

What assessment he has made of his Department’s spending priorities in the context of the autumn statement 2022.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

The Chancellor announced a plan in last week’s autumn statement to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild our economy. As I said earlier, the Government will invest more than £600 billion in infrastructure over the next five years to connect our country and grow the economy. Transport investment will play a huge part in delivering that, and I will work to deliver a stable, long-term plan to run, maintain and expand our transport network across the United Kingdom.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary)

The Republic of Ireland is facing exactly the same global economic impacts as the United Kingdom, but the recent Irish Budget was able to increase support for transport across the southern part of that island. In contrast, the real-terms cuts we will see in the coming years will have a direct impact on transport spending in England and, significantly, in the devolved nations through the Barnett formula. Will the Secretary of State undertake to ensure that the transport needs of other parts of the United Kingdom are not sacrificed for those in London? Does he agree that all public transport infrastructure spending in Scotland should be according to the priorities of the Scottish Government, who were elected for that purpose?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Gentleman is right that we will have to deal with the pressures of inflation, and the Government’s No. 1 economic priority is to reduce inflation as quickly as possible. Inflation is a global phenomenon, driven by the recovery from the covid pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, but it is important that we deal with it.

The hon. Gentleman will know that I represent a constituency quite some distance from London. I am well aware that we need to spread transport investment across the United Kingdom, and I will make sure that I work closely with the Scottish Government on shared priorities, as set out in Peter Hendy’s Union connectivity review.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

I welcome my very good friend, the Secretary of State, to his place. Will he make spending in rural areas a priority? If we are to level up transport, we must not forget rural areas. On that point, will he look at the urgent need for Leicestershire County Council to build the Melton bypass, which is crucial to levelling up our transport? In addition, will he recognise that rurality matters when reviewing accident hotspots, because rurality can hide just how dangerous an accident hotspot is?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

I thank my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, for her kind words. On the priority for spending on transport in rural areas, I represent a rural constituency myself, of course, and am well aware of the extra challenges in rural areas. We will take those matters into account as we develop our plans, following our settlement in the autumn statement.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

As we have heard in concerns raised by Members on both sides of the House, a crisis facing millions of people across the country right now is the total absence of reliable and affordable bus services. How much of the promised bus service improvement funding has actually been handed to local authorities? When will the Secretary of State reopen applications to cover the 60% of the country that did not get a single penny in the initial round?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

Local authorities put in bids for significantly more than the £1 billion that was allocated. We selected a total of 34 counties, city regions and unitary authorities to benefit from that funding. We wrote to offer further practical support to all areas to which we cannot offer new funding. We will look at a further round of funding in due course.