With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a statement on how this Government are improving the journeys that matter most to the British public.
Our path to net zero remains ambitious, but we are making that path more proportionate. We are backing Britain’s drivers and slamming the brakes on anti-car policies. Thanks to record Government investment, everyday journeys for more people in more places will improve more quickly.
I wish to update the House on three long-term decisions we have made to secure a brighter future, starting with zero-emission vehicles. No one should doubt or play down Britain’s progress on decarbonisation. “World leading” is not an exaggeration. We have cut emissions faster than any G7 country, pledged a decarbonised transport sector by 2050—the first major economy to do so—and today we have laid another world-leading piece of legislation: the zero-emission vehicle mandate. Manufacturers will now meet minimum targets of clean car production, starting with 22% next year and reaching 80% by 2030. It stands to be one of the largest carbon-saving policies across Government, and manufacturers are on board. They will deliver a mandate that they helped shape, a product of partnership between this Government and industry that has been not months but years in the making. These targets are now embedded in their forecasts, and that certainty has inspired investment, protected existing jobs and paved the way for new jobs, too. Look at the past few months: BMW, Stellantis and Tata are expanding their electric vehicle operations right across the UK, from Oxford to Merseyside.
However, targets can be missed if Governments fail to take people with them, and we will not make that mistake. So, people will be able to buy new petrol and diesel cars until 2035, aligning the UK with the likes of Canada, Australia and Germany. It is fairer on British consumers, it allows us to grow the used EV market—lowering costs and increasing choice—and it ensures we raise confidence in our charging infrastructure. In fact, public charge points are already up by 43% since last year and set to grow even further thanks to investment from both the Government and private sector.
For many, that is the future, but today, in some parts of the country, drivers are being punished and cars vilified. The Mayor of London’s expansion of the ultra low emission zone is forcing drivers to sell up or pay hefty daily fines. Overzealous enforcement practices—from yellow box junctions to blanket 20 mph zones—are turning drivers into cash cows for councils. Measures to overly restrict where and when people travel are already being planned in places such as Oxfordshire. My message to councils is simple: this anti-motorist campaign has run out of road. This Government recognise that cars are not a luxury; they are a lifeline. They are how most people in rural constituencies such as mine access work, education and essential services. That is why, after listening to the concerns of motorists, I have announced a new long-term plan for drivers, with 30 measures that will protect their rights to travel how they want, where they want and when they want.
We will use AI technology to keep traffic flowing. We will build a national parking platform to make it easier to find and pay for a space. We will inject some common sense into enforcement: where 20 mph zones are necessary exceptions with local support, not a blanket norm; where rules are enforced to keep our roads safe, not to line council coffers; and where low traffic neighbourhoods rely on public support, not on outdated covid guidance. How many times drivers get from A to B will be their choice, not decided by councils. None of that undermines our investments in public transport, nor in active travel. We are pro public transport, but we will not be anti-car. A sustainable transport network needs both, so people can choose to travel in the way that best suits them.
Let me now turn to our decision on HS2. With decades to wait before it arrived and benefits dwindling, it risked crowding out investment in other transport areas and no longer reflected post-pandemic changes in travel. Despite that, some argue that we should have carried on regardless—that a single rail line between a handful of cities and London is more important than millions of everyday journeys around the country. I disagree. The facts have changed, so we are changing our approach. With work well under way, we will finish HS2 between London Euston and the west midlands. Just last week, I spoke to the Euston Partnership Board on the huge regeneration opportunity that can be unlocked with private investment. However, by stopping HS2 in Birmingham, we can reinvest every penny of the £36 billion saved in transport across the country, in the roads, the local bus services and the regional train links—all those essential daily connections that people rely on.
No region will lose out, receiving either the same, or more, Government investment than under HS2. Almost £20 billion will go to the north, with Bradford, ignored under previous proposals, now getting a new station and faster rail connections to Manchester. Northern Powerhouse Rail is now extended to include Hull and Sheffield. A separate £12 billion fund will better connect Liverpool and Manchester, and I have already spoken to the Mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region to kickstart work on that.
West Yorkshire, thanks to £2.5 billion of funding, will finally get its mass transitsystem built in full. Over 20 road schemes will be delivered, and crucially, we will more than double the transport budgets of northern Mayors, benefiting our largest cities and smallest towns.
We are also investing in the midlands, with almost £10 billion ensuring the midlands rail hub is completed in full, increased mayoral budgets, including £1.5 billion for the new east midlands city region, and councils—from Stoke on Trent to Lincolnshire—seeing long-term transport funding settlements for the first time.
Finally, the remainder of this transformational investment will be spread across the UK, including: extending the hugely popular £2 bus fare cap, which people will see the benefit of just next month; delivering the Ely junction project and north Wales mainline electrification, benefiting both passengers and freight; and dealing with the menace of potholes, with £8.3 billion in new funding to resurface roads up and down the country. All told, Network North is a new vision for transport—one that creates more winners in more places, one that prioritises people’s everyday journeys, and one that drives the growth and jobs that this country needs.
I will finish with this: we will never shirk the long-term decisions to secure this country’s future and we will always be guided by the needs of the British people. When the majority want a pragmatic route to net zero, we will back them. When drivers feel unfairly targeted, we will back them. When the public want us to focus on the journeys that matter most to them, we will back them. This Government are delivering on the people’s priorities. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement.
Let me start by saying how shocking it is that our first opportunity to scrutinise the cancellation of Europe’s largest infrastructure project comes two weeks after the announcement was made. It shows sheer contempt for this House and the people affected by this decision.
It is good to see the Transport Secretary in his place for a change, but for once I am not holding him responsible. I know that he was not in the room when these decisions were made and he has my sympathy for having to try to make this absurd decision look sensible. There is only one man who should take responsibility for the sheer chaos, incompetence and desperation that we have seen over the past two weeks: the Prime Minister. Only he could announce the cancellation of HS2 to Manchester in Manchester. Only he would have the brass neck to make that decision without consulting our metro Mayors or any of the communities and businesses that depend on the project. Only he would announce a plan for drivers, as car insurance and petrol prices soar, that makes no mention of the cost of living, and when, just six months earlier, he personally had kicked every future road project into the next decade. Only he would insult the north with a back of the fag packet plan that he has announced in its place.
The consequences of this shambles are no joke; they are profound. There will be owners of small and medium-sized enterprises that have bet the house on HS2. People will lose their jobs this side of the general election as a result of this decision—homes, farms and businesses all sold, the countryside carved up, and Euston a hole in the ground, and for what? He has wasted £45 billion on a line between Old Oak Common and Birmingham that no one asked for and that has no business case. Only in Conservative-run Britain could a high-speed train hit the slow-coach lane the second it hits the north of England.
We need some answers. First, was there a meeting with Simon Case before the Tory conference in which a decision on HS2 was taken? If not, why was a video recorded of the Prime Minister in No.10? Is he suggesting that he followed in Boris Johnson’s footsteps and recorded two versions just in case? And what of the economic impact? How many businesses does the Secretary of State expect to go under as a result of this decision? What is the estimate of the compensation that will have to be paid? How much more will phase 1 now cost through re-scoping? How much do the Government expect to lose in the coming fire sale of the land, and what safeguards are in place to ensure that there is not a hint of corruption in those sales? Given that the west coast main line is at breaking point, does he accept that this plan will result in severe overcrowding and set Northern Powerhouse Rail back by a decade?
This level of chaos and economic damage would make even the Prime Minister’s most recent predecessor blush, and I am not alone in that opinion. Two former Tory Chancellors have warned that this is
“an act of huge economic self-harm”.
The Tory Mayor of the west midlands has described it as “cancelling the future”, and David Cameron has said that it shows that
“we can no longer think or act for the long-term as a country”.
Not content with simply cancelling the programme, the Prime Minister is now salting the earth by selling off the land—and what have we got in its place? This so-called Network North. That announcement can be broken down into three categories: projects that have already been built, projects that have already been announced, and projects that do not exist. Let us go through some of them, shall we? There is the extension of Manchester’s tram link to the airport, a project that opened nine years ago; there is the
“brand new rail station for Bradford”,
a project that has been scrapped and reinstated by three Tory Prime Ministers in a row; and there is the upgrade of the A259 to Southampton, a route that does not exist. How can the Transport Secretary stand at that Dispatch Box and pretend that there is any credible plan for delivery, when last week even the Prime Minister admitted that these plans were only “illustrative”? For once I agree with him: they are illustrative—illustrative of the sheer incompetence of this Government, illustrative of the contempt with which they treat the north, and illustrative of why you can never trust the Tories.
The Prime Minister promised us a “revolution” in our transport infrastructure, but instead we got a wish list. He has robbed Peter, and he will not even be paying Paul. Communities are sick and tired of the broken promises from this broken Government. Does this fiasco not prove once and for all—after 13 failed years, three discredited rail plans, tens of billions of pounds of public money wasted. and thousands of homes and lives upended—that they have no record to stand on, no mandate to deliver, and no credible plan for the future? Is it not time they finally accepted that they are a Government at the end of the line?
Oh dear. I do not know whether the hon. Lady noticed, but this is the first day that the House has been back after the conference break, and I am here at the Dispatch Box making a statement at the first—[Interruption.] If Lucy Powell will allow me to answer the questions that her hon. Friend has just asked without shouting from the Opposition Front Bench, I shall be delighted to do so. This is our first day back, and I have made a statement at the first opportunity I have had.
The hon. Lady made a point about the cost of living. I drew attention to the fact that the £2 bus fare cap was being extended; that will kick in as early as next month, and it is an important cost of living measure for the many millions of people who use buses. Buses are the most popular form of public transport, which is why the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Mr Holden, is such a massive champion of them.
The hon. Lady referred to HS2. We are still delivering phase 1 from Euston to the west midlands, which is very significant transport investment and delivery, in terms of the supply chain and all the companies that depend on it. Moreover, it delivers a massive increase in capacity to the west coast main line, taking the number of seats a day from 134,000 to 250,000. As for the details in the “Network North” document, let me point out that a third of the savings we are making that are being reinvested—£12 billion—are increases in funding for various Mayors across the country. The ultimate decisions about what is to be invested are for those Mayors, and I have had productive conversations with a number of them. They will be working with us on the details of these plans, so that they are right for the areas that they represent. As for the hon. Lady’s point about decision making, I have said this publicly before: I took the formal decision on the day before the Prime Minister’s speech. There was a meeting of the Cabinet on the morning of his speech, which approved that decision, and the Prime Minister announced it shortly afterwards.
I noticed that Keir Starmer rowed in very quickly, and has not disavowed this decision. He, of course, has long campaigned against HS2, and I suspect that the fact he rowed in so quickly behind it reflects that. I note that, on this decision, where the Prime Minister leads, the Leader of the Opposition follows.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his statement. My Committee colleagues and I will want to scrutinise a number of the measures in depth when he appears before us in a few weeks—it will be a bumper session. Today, however, let me focus on one issue regarding HS2. One advantage of the project was that it would release capacity on the west coast main line, not just between London and Birmingham, but right up the line. As it is stopping at Handsacre junction, there will be a severe capacity constraint on that part of the line; there will not be space for extra inter-regional services and freight services. The high-speed trains will be in a very congested part of the network, unless further upgrade work is done. I urge him to look at that capacity constraint; if HS2 is not happening on that part of the project, what additional measures might be put in place?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question and, as always, I look forward to appearing before the Transport Committee to answer his questions and those of his colleagues, from both sides of the House. On his specific question, the first thing we have committed to doing is invest in remodelling Handsacre junction, so that those high-speed trains that go to Birmingham then get on to the west coast main line on the fast lines. The most congested part of the west coast main line is its southern part, which of course is having a significant capacity upgrade. However, I note carefully what he said and will bear that in mind. He should also note that we are investing in the upgraded connections east-west in the north of England, including from Liverpool to Manchester. One conversations I have already had was about the importance of making sure we are able to take freight traffic, including from the Port of Liverpool, and those are conversations we will take forward.
Dear me! I almost feel sorry for the Secretary of State. All the promises about greener, faster and more sustainable transport and connectivity are gone, unless you live in Birmingham, where people will have the most gold-plated express shuttle service in the history of the world. There are no real benefits to modal shift or net-zero targets here, but what about levelling up? The cancellation of the Golborne link last year highlighted that this Government never really cared about the project serving Scotland, but the Manchester leg following the Leeds route into the bin proves that they did not care about the north of England either. As always with Westminster, for London and the south-east money is no object, but when a large infrastructure project outside the M25 runs into trouble, the plug is pulled. Gareth Williams of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry said:
“The lead recommendation in the UK Government’s own Union Connectivity Review was to reduce journey times and increase rail capacity between Scotland, London, the Midlands and the North West of England.”
He also said:
“This is a very short-sighted decision that…actually risks making Scotland’s connectivity with London worse.”
There was also no need to push back the date on electric vehicles. The Government could have made the switch easier and faster had they, at any time whatsoever, listened to us on issues such as the charging network, VAT equalisation, removing incentives to switch too early or their zero-emission bus schemes being entirely unfit for purpose. So will the Secretary of State guarantee that Scotland will receive the consequentials expected through HS2, now redirected to these other schemes? How much money was wasted looking at a Golborne link alternative? How much consultation took place with the Scottish Government regarding the A75 announcement, given that it has absolutely nothing to do with this Government whatever? Will the Department now look at different rolling stock options, including new high-speed tilting options, to increase potential speeds on the west coast main line?
The Secretary of State recently tweeted:
“In Japan, I saw the benefits high speed rail can bring—to connect communities &
grow the economy…we remain fully committed to building HS2..Building it shows we believe in Britain”.
I can only conclude therefore that he no longer believes in Britain—will he confirm that? I like to end in consensus, so I hope he will answer that question in the affirmative.
The hon. Gentleman demonstrates in the close of his question the Scottish National party’s obsession with crowbarring independence into every question about everything, thus he continued in a way not to disappoint. The SNP never ceases to talk about independence at every available opportunity, even when it has nothing to do with the question.
The hon. Gentleman’s first point, about different regions in the country, might have some merit if we had just cancelled phase 2 of HS2 and not reinvested every single penny in alternative transport projects across the country. As I said, some of those will take place relatively soon: the money for local authorities for bus funding and for improving the quality of local roads, which is a top priority for most people, will be available next spring. The other investment will be available in the same timeframe as the money would have been delivered for phase 2 of HS2, which would not have delivered high-speed trains to Manchester until 2041.
Secondly, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman for mentioning the zero-emission vehicle mandate that we tabled, which is the single largest decarbonisation measure that the Government will take. I notice Louise Haigh barely mentioned it, if at all, but it is a very significant measure in delivering our net zero obligations. It is incredibly important and it would be good to have Opposition support for it. We have the support of the Scottish and Welsh Governments, which agree with the plan we have tabled in Parliament today.
On the point the hon. Gentleman made about our planned local transport spending, Barnett consequentials will flow in the normal way. The roads Minister, my hon. Friend Mr Holden, has spoken to his opposite number in the Scottish Government about the A75.
As I said, this plan delivers every single penny that would have been spent on HS2 on alternative transport projects that, I think, are closer to what people want to see. When the facts changed, the cost of the project had risen and the benefits had reduced. That is why we have taken this decision, which will be welcomed by people across the country.
As a Yorkshire Member of Parliament, I have always championed HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the trans-Pennine rail upgrade. Two out of three is not brilliant, but I will settle for that. It is very disappointing that the Leader of the Opposition always campaigned against HS2 as well, but we are where we are. With Network North, can the Secretary of State confirm that projects that improve local connectivity, such as the Huddersfield-Sheffield-Penistone line, which goes through my constituency and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Dewsbury (Mark Eastwood) and for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates), are exactly the projects that can now be delivered, with this cash being invested locally and regionally?
My hon. Friend makes two good points, one of which is that the Leader of the Opposition has always campaigned against HS2. [Interruption.] If we look at the parliamentary record, he absolutely has. Secondly, my hon. Friend is right that what we have been able to do is free up money to pay for other road and rail projects and, for example, to fund buses. I know that the rail Minister, my hon. Friend Huw Merriman, is going to meet my hon. Friend and the colleagues he mentioned to talk about exactly the sorts of schemes we are going to deliver.
Is it not the case that rather than levelling up the north, this is slowing down the north? I will give an illustration. Not very long ago, a station in the town of Northwich, which I represent, collapsed. It is now finally being rebuilt, via insurance, and what is being rebuilt is the ticket office—a ticket office that this Government are consulting on closing down. That speaks volumes about how, when the Government cut their cloth, it is always the north that pays the price.
I do not think the hon. Gentleman listened to what I said or read what we said in the document. We are going to reinvest every single penny that we are saving from cancelling phase 2 of HS2 in the parts of the country where the money was going to be spent. Just under £20 billion will be spent in the north of England, just under £10 billion will be spent in the midlands and £6.5 billion, which we are saving from the new way that we will deliver Euston station, will be spent in the rest of the country. That is reinvesting in transport projects that I think are closer to what people want to see, which is why they have welcomed the decision we have made.
After I have spent years arguing that HS2 was wasteful and too destructive and that we could not afford it, the Government have finally agreed with me and scrapped the line north of Birmingham. However, with the Government having previously cancelled the eastern leg and now having chopped its leg off, that leaves a legless stump through my constituency from London to Birmingham, which continues to bring daily misery to my constituents and is costing an amount of money that we cannot afford. I ask the Secretary of State—going for third time lucky—whether he will scrap the entirety of HS2, return the land that can be returned, do something better with the community’s consent with the land that cannot be returned, and then spend that money on the west coast main line and the Chiltern line instead.
Given my hon. Friend’s constituency interest, I completely understand why he takes the view that he does. He is a doughty champion for his constituents, and never loses an opportunity—in this place or, in fact, every time I see him—to make exactly those points.
However, given the progress we have made, the decision we have taken is to complete phase 1 from Euston to Birmingham, delivering that significant capacity upgrade. [Interruption.] I say to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley, who just cannot help shouting from a sedentary position, that I had a very productive meeting with the Euston Partnership last week to discuss these details. The London Borough of Camden and the Mayor of London are very enthusiastic, and are working with us in partnership on those proposals. The new development corporation at Euston is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform that area. They welcome these proposals, and I look forward to working with them constructively on them.
Coming back to my hon. Friend’s point, we are going to complete phase 1 between Euston and Birmingham, which delivers the significant capacity upgrade that the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend Iain Stewart, referred to. Notwithstanding the inconvenience being suffered by the constituents of my hon. Friend Greg Smith, if there are any issues we can deal with—other than cancelling phase 1—I am always happy to meet him.
The Secretary of State did not make any specific reference to his comments at Conservative party conference about the proposals for 15-minute communities that are out there. He has, however, said that the number of times drivers can get from A to B will be their choice, not decided by councils. Does he believe this nonsense? Can he tell the House about any local authority that has ever considered such a restriction on local people? This is just complete nonsense.
I actually can. If the hon. Gentleman goes to the website of Oxfordshire County Council, he will see a very specific proposal for, I think, five roads. That council is proposing to have filters on those roads and to issue permits, enabling local residents to only drive down them a specific number of times a year. That is a Labour-Lib Dem-Green council, or at least it was when the proposal was made. If a resident exceeds that number of permitted journeys, a picture will be taken of their licence plate and they will be issued with a fine. We in the Conservative party do not support those sorts of restrictions being put on motorists by local authorities—clearly the hon. Gentleman does, but we do not, and we will not stand for it.
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s statement. Phase 2b to Leeds was cancelled earlier in the year, so does my right hon. Friend know when the safeguarded land through my constituency will be released back? That has had a big impact on constituents who have seen their lives blighted and have been unable to move forward. Any news my right hon. Friend has would be gratefully received; he may want to write to me later so that I can feed it back to my constituents.
To help my right hon. Friend, phase 2a safeguarding will be formally lifted within weeks. Phase 2b safeguarding, which covers the area in which his constituents live, will be amended by next summer to allow for any safeguarding we need for the Northern Powerhouse Rail projects. In the meantime, we will start taking steps to lift the blighting effect of HS2 in areas where safeguarding is going to be lifted. We will obviously set out the details of that in the usual way. There is a proper legal process to be followed, and we will continue working with local authorities in my right hon. Friend’s area and colleagues in the House to keep them fully informed.
What consideration has the Secretary of State given to allowing Parliament to scrutinise the proposed £36 billion of expenditure, in relation to both Network North and Northern Powerhouse Rail? In the consideration of the schemes, now that HS2 has been cancelled, will any of the money that has been saved be available to address some basic transport failings in constituencies such as mine? We have a Northern Rail service on the Durham coast line that is frankly not fit for purpose. There is a lack of capacity. We have two carriages once an hour, with no notice of cancelled services, which undermines education and employment, leaving people stranded on the platform. These failings represent not only a transport crisis, but an economic crisis, which, frankly, makes a mockery of the Government’s levelling-up agenda.
First of all, scrutiny of my Department’s spending will be carried out by the Transport Committee. The Chair, my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South, is no longer in his place, but I am sure that the Committee, of which Grahame Morris is an esteemed member, will carry out that scrutiny process.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in the north-east, there is a tripling of the money that will be under the control of the new North East Combined Authority. A significant amount of extra money in many parts of the country will be controlled by locally elected Mayors and local authorities, thus ensuring that transport decisions are taken closer to home. I hope that he and Opposition Members welcome that as much as I do.
The Secretary of State will know that in 2025, it is the 200th anniversary of the world’s first passenger railway in Britain. Does he share my dismay and, frankly, shame that in this country, 200 years on, we are not able to connect our great cities when other major countries around the world can do so? Would the right thing not be to address the cost of the schemes and why they are so much more expensive in this country, rather than scaling back our ambitions?
My right hon. Friend raises two separate points. One is about the reasons why there have been cost increases. Some of this was in place before the project was in construction—from planning and issues like that, which are worth looking at in the long term, although that will not help in this case. We have also seen significant cost increases, not least due to construction inflation over the past few years. However, this is not just about cost increases; it is also about the benefit reduction. One of the key parts of the business case for HS2 was that it was for business and business traffic. We have seen business rail use and commuter rail use halve post-pandemic because of the changed way in which people choose to travel. That has been an essential part of the decision, and that is why we have decided to change the way we spend the money—not to not spend it, but to spend it on transport investments closer to the way people live their lives. We think that is the right decision, notwithstanding the fact that I recognise that my right hon. Friend is disappointed by it.
The Government claimed that the decision to scrap most of HS2 was made due to rising costs, yet who was Chief Secretary to the Treasury and then Chancellor when the costs were spiralling out of control? The current Prime Minister. Not content with that failure, we now know that he also wasted a shocking £2.2 billion on the leg of HS2 that has just been cancelled. Secretary of State, does this entire fiasco not illustrate how little regard the Government have for taxpayers’ money?
No, not at all. Having no regard for taxpayers’ money would be deciding that a project was going to cost too much and deliver too little in benefits, and then continuing to spend taxpayers’ money regardless. This will not be welcomed by everybody and it was not the consensus view, but we have decided to cancel the second phase. By the way, this was about not just increased costs, but the combination of increased costs and reduced benefits, as I said in answer to my right hon. Friend Greg Clark. It was about the two things together, and we have decided to reinvest the money in alternative transport projects, which, by the way, have a higher return on investment and will therefore deliver a greater return to taxpayers. That shows exactly the opposite of what Mr Dhesi said—that we value taxpayers’ money and want to deliver the best return for taxpayers’ money, which is why we have made this change in how we are investing their hard-earned money.
Many councils apply for grants in order to make changes to their local roads. When considering these applications, will Ministers ensure that they do not end up paying for schemes that cut local capacity on crucial roads and make drivers’ lives a misery?
My right hon. Friend makes a very good point about what we should prioritise when funding roads. He should know that one of the important changes I have made is to make sure that our active travel team is focused on delivering cycling and walking schemes that increase choice, rather than focusing on driving people out of their cars. I hope he will welcome that important change.
The Secretary of State says that his party is not anti-motorist, but it is clearly anti-public transport. We Liberal Democrats are not anti-motorist either, but we are unequivocally pro-public transport. Rail produces 76% less carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey, and each freight train removes up to 76 lorries from our roads. The decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2 will lead to up to half a million more lorry journeys up and down the country, resulting in a lot more congestion in our towns and cities. Is the Secretary of State not concerned that freight that would have gone on to the railway will now be forced on to the roads, increasing our carbon emissions and congestion?
I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s characterisation of our view on public transport. First, we have already put in a significant amount of extra money this year and, from the savings, still more is going into our bus system. Our £2 bus fare cap is making it much easier and cheaper for people to use public transport. Twice as many journeys are made by bus than by rail. She should also know that HS2 spending was crowding out other important investments. One of the things we are now able to fund is the £600 million project at Ely junction that will increase capacity for both passengers and freight to the important port of Felixstowe.
My right hon. Friend has just mentioned Ely junction, and he will know that the great eastern main line taskforce has assiduously campaigned for that investment for over a decade. I am grateful for this announcement, and we look forward to seeing the proposal go forward. Alongside rail, which is huge in the east of England, can my right hon. Friend bring his long-term plan for motorists to Essex by bringing forward the dualling of the A120? That scheme has been delayed for another two years because of construction inflation, which I completely understand. I implore him to look at the business case and see what the scheme would mean for the economic wellbeing of mid-Essex.
The Ely junction scheme, which I know my right hon. Friend and others welcome, is a well worked through scheme that was on Network Rail’s list of important priorities, but we simply did not have the money to fund it. We now do, as a result of this project. People cannot want to continue building the second phase of HS2 and simultaneously want to do all these other things. A choice had to be made, and we made that choice, and I think it is the right choice for the country. I know how important my right hon. Friend thinks her road scheme is. I obviously cannot deal with it now but, as ever, I would be happy to meet her to discuss how important it is for her constituents.
I saw the Secretary of State’s Network North map on Twitter, featuring those legendary northern towns of Tavistock, Dawlish and Plymouth. That might have been mildly amusing had my constituency not been cut in half, with the whole of the Wirral disappearing into the Irish sea. Have we been taken off the map because we have no funding for any capital transport projects? Will Cheshire West and Chester Council now get a refund for the hundreds of thousands of pounds that it has already spent on preparatory work for HS2 coming to Cheshire? That money now appears to have been wasted because of the bungled handling of this contract.
Just to be clear, of the money that we are saving as a result of cancelling the second phase of HS2, just under £20 billion is being spent in the north and just under £10 billion is being spent in the midlands. The money being spent in the rest of the country is the money saved from the way we are now going to deliver Euston station—with a much more ambitious development, building thousands more houses and having a much more positive impact on the local economy. It is sensible to call it Network North, because that is where two thirds of the money is going, but the £6.5 billion that is being spent in the rest of the country, outside the north and the midlands, will be very welcome. As I have said, every penny is being reinvested in those parts of the country that HS2 was going to benefit. In the north of England, for example, we are looking at investing £12 billion in the line between Liverpool and Manchester, and at having productive talks with the Mayors in that part of the world to deliver transport projects that are their priorities for the people they represent.
The allocation of funding to the north-east has the potential to have a major positive local impact. I particularly welcome the announcement on Ferryhill station and look forward to discussing the timing with the Secretary of State. However, the substantial funding towards investments such as the Leamside line was within 24 hours spun by the local opposition as a reversal of intent. Will he make absolutely clear what is being delivered to the north-east and how it affects the Leamside project?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. The reopening of the Leamside line is a Transport North East-led project. It is developing a business case to connect Washington with the Tyne and Wear metro, and we are supporting it as it develops the outline business case. Because we have cancelled the second phase of HS2, £685 million extra is being allocated to the north-east, meaning that the new north-east Mayor will have £1.8 billion to spend on their transport funding over the five years from 2027. One such scheme could be the reopening of the Leamside line. [Interruption.] Louise Haigh says, “Could be”. We believe in devolution. We are giving £1.8 billion to the north-east Mayor and it will be for the Mayor to decide the priorities. I know, having talked to one of the candidates for that mayoral office, that this is a priority for them. My hon. Friend Paul Howell has been championing this project enormously, and we can now fund such projects because of the cancellation of the second phase of HS2. I am grateful to my hon. Friend and will continue to work with him as he champions that case.
On Wednesday, Hull and Humber chamber of commerce, Humber local authority leaders and MPs are going to meet the rail Minister to discuss the need for transport investment around the Humber. The Prime Minister announced at the Conservative party conference that rail electrification for Hull would go ahead, and the Secretary of State has also mentioned that in his remarks today. Of course, this has been blocked twice by Conservative Governments. In the light of that and the broken promises over HS2, trust is very limited in the north as to whether this Government will deliver on what they say. To help with that, will the Secretary of State tell me the start date for the rail electrification project to Hull?
I am not going to pluck dates out of the air. It is worth saying that phase 2 of HS2 was not going to deliver trains to Manchester until 2041. This funding is over a significant period of time. Clearly, we have to have the normal processes in place where we work through business cases and do all of that. I am not going to pluck dates out of the air. Since we made the announcement, I have met both National Highways and Network Rail. They are now working through the detail of how these proposals fit in with their planning processes. We will announce the details in due course, but the right hon. Lady would not expect me to pluck dates out of the air. We will announce them in the normal way. I know that my hon. Friend the rail Minister is meeting her local authority to talk through the details of these important schemes.
I very much support this decision on HS2, given that the cost was totally out of control, the benefits were much diminished from what was originally promised, and many of the stations in Staffordshire and up and down the north will actually receive a better service via the Handsacre link than ever could have been delivered by phase 2. Does my right hon. Friend agree that people in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire very much want to see investment going into local schemes such as reopening Meir station, reopening the Stoke to Leek line, investing in the A5 and the A50, and investing in junction 15 of the M6?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has demonstrated through his question and that list of valued local schemes why investing the money in those schemes will deliver more benefits to more people more quickly than delivering the rest of HS2. That is why he and many other people have warmly welcomed this decision.
Despite chopping HS2 off at the knees coming at a considerable cost—about £40 billion, from what I understand—and the statement indicating that the Government will reinvest the money from HS2’s northern leg, which is another £36 billion, the only Welsh announcement I can see in the statement is about the north Wales main line, which the Government estimate to have a cost of about £1 billion. That, by my maths, leaves a shortfall of about £3 billion. Will the British Government ensure in discussions with the Welsh Government that Wales gets its allocated shortfall of £3 billion so that it can invest in Welsh transport priorities?
The Government retain responsibility for delivering heavy rail. We are making an investment of £1 billion into electrifying the north Wales main line, which I would have thought the hon. Member would welcome. As over the coming years we develop the funding for local transport spending, Wales will get Barnett consequentials in the usual way.
There is a deep democratic point in all of this. The Secretary of State was elected at the last general election with the expectation given by the then leader of the Conservative party that HS2 would be built. Partly because of the Government’s financial incompetence, they are now cancelling it. A Prime Minister—not the Secretary of State—whose own party did not support him, and who has certainly never put himself before the electorate as Prime Minister, is cancelling it. The current Secretary of State is following a scorched earth policy whereby it will be impossible for either the elected Mayors who are looking for alternative funding for carrying on the second phase or an incoming Labour Government, to build out the full scheme, with all the benefits it would have. That is fundamentally anti-democratic. Will the Secretary of State not consider, on a democratic basis, protecting the line of HS2?
The hon. Gentleman raised two points. On the first, I make no apology for basing a decision on the facts. The facts have changed—both the costs have increased and the benefits have reduced—and pouring taxpayers’ money into a scheme where that had happened would not make a lot of sense. On his second point, I am now thoroughly confused: I thought the Labour Party had now accepted that HS2 was not going to happen and that it preferred all the alternative things we wanted to spend the money on. It cannot have it both ways. If he and his colleagues want to complete the second phase of HS2, they must go and tell everybody else that they do not want to spend the money on all those other things that we are going to spend it on. We have to make choices in politics. We have made our choice. I am happy with our choice and will defend it. They cannot have it both ways.
Apologies—I inadvertently called two speakers from the Opposition side, so I will next take two from the Government side. While I am on my feet, I remind Members that we have another big statement and an important debate to come, so I urge brevity in questions and answers.
When the Secretary of State is looking at Network North, which I do welcome—I thank him very much for the A582 benefit in the Ribble Valley constituency of Mr Deputy Speaker; he will be delighted with that name-check—may I encourage him to think about the structure for funding other opportunities? There is a gap in the market between very large rail schemes and those extremely small rail schemes that are too small for local councils to deliver, such as at Midge Hall in my constituency, where the trains stop at a platform and we have the nonsense of customers not being able to get on or off. Does he agree that we could look at such improvement schemes in Network North?
The cancellation of HS2 is a triple win for Newcastle-under-Lyme. First, we will get faster trains to London. Secondly, we will get improvements to junction 50 and the things that my hon. Friend Jack Brereton talked about. Thirdly and most importantly, HS2 will not cut a swathe through the south of Newcastle-under-Lyme. On that point, the people who will be most pleased are my councillors Gary and Simon White, who have been representing the people of Betley and Madeley on this since long before I was an MP. I have a number of questions from them that I will send to the Secretary of State, but most of all they are focused on the need to ensure that the situation faced by landowners who have had their land subject to compulsory purchase can be put right as quickly as possible, whether they want to purchase the land or not. What reassurance can he give that we will look after landowners whose land has been subject to compulsory purchase?
As I just said, we are now following a proper legal process. We will set out the details of that, and then landowners who have been impacted will know what they can do for us to try to put things right. I welcome the work that his two councillors have done in ably representing their constituents, as my hon. Friend represents his.
The more the Government pursue their net zero obsession, the less Conservative they look. The Minister, without any embarrassment, has today announced—in fact, he has boasted of—a new law, the zero emission vehicle mandate, which will instruct manufacturers on what they are allowed to produce year on year. Then he tells us that consumers will be allowed to purchase whatever cars they want until 2035. That sounds more like a Stalinist economic plan than a free-market Conservative policy. Can he tell us what will happen if rational consumers decide that they do not want to buy more expensive cars—cars that take half an hour to refuel, are likely to burst into flames, or are more expensive to insure? What will he do then? Will he have to introduce legislation to instruct dealers on what cars they sell and how to sell them?
First, if the right hon. Gentleman assumes that climate change is a problem, then we need to deal with it. Transport is the biggest single emitter of carbon. That is why we have published these ambitious proposals, which by the way are supported by the automotive industry. Several of those in the industry are planning on going faster than we are legislating for. On the specific point for Northern Ireland, the plans that we have set out are agreed by the Scottish, Welsh and UK Governments. When, as I hope, we get a Northern Ireland Government and Assembly back up and running, they will have to decide whether they wish to join in with those proposals. I very much hope that they do.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and the additional £900 million for South Yorkshire, which will make a huge difference to the region. However, with the recent closure of Doncaster Sheffield airport, does he agree that the best thing that our combined authority Mayor can do is use all his devolved powers to work with all stakeholders to secure the opening of our airport, and will the Secretary of State use all his influence to press the South Yorkshire Mayor to do the right thing with the additional money and use it to help secure our airport’s future?
I know that my hon. Friend and others in that area of the country have campaigned in favour of the airport. Of course, the thing about devolution is that Mayors are able to decide to use their resources, which they now have more of, on what they think are their local priorities, representing the people they are elected to serve. It is a decision for the Mayor, and of course my hon. Friend and others will campaign for that decision to be taken.
Nick Fletcher said that South Yorkshire will get £900 million as a consequence of the decision made by the Secretary of State and the Government to cancel HS2. Will the Secretary of State confirm that it is the case that in South Yorkshire we can expect £900 million for our region that we would not otherwise have received? If that is the case, over what timeframe will we receive it?
It is extra money going to the region, capital funding over the next phase of that capital budget. It is over the second phase of the city region sustainable transport settlements scheme. I have already had a discussion with the South Yorkshire Mayor to talk it through, and his officials and mine are working through the details so that he can look at the relevant schemes that he wishes to invest in over that period.
Norfolk’s infrastructure needs have often been overlooked, but not any more: just in the last week, the Department of Transport has announced £231 million supporting the Norwich Western Link road in my constituency, for which I am very grateful, in addition to the £600 million supporting the Ely junction upgrade. The Secretary of State has mentioned the increase in freight transport that that allows, but am I right in thinking that it also unlocks the possibility of increased passenger trains between Norwich and Cambridge, along the Norwich tech corridor?
I am pleased that we were able to make the decision on the road that my hon. Friend and other colleagues have been campaigning strongly for, and to communicate that to his county council so that the scheme can continue apace. I am grateful for his welcome for the upgrade for Ely junction and, as I said in my earlier remarks, that unlocks both freight capacity and potentially further passenger services that can be delivered. Network Rail will set out further details on that in due course, once it has set out the timetable, now that I have been able to confirm that the plan is funded.
Earlier this year I asked the rail Minister, Huw Merriman, what was in place to ensure effective monitoring and oversight of HS2. He assured me that comprehensive monitoring arrangements were in place. Now even the Prime Minister has raised concerns about mismanagement of HS2. What assurances can the Secretary of State give to my constituents in the Chilterns that HS2 Limited and its contractors will be better held to account?
On that specific point, one of the things we have done, because we are going to continue delivering phase 1 of HS2 from London Euston to Birmingham, is to make sure that we focus on both cost and delivery on the current timetable. There are now extra members appointed to the HS2 board; I have met the board to talk through its plan and to hold it to account on both the delivery schedule and the cost budget that it has to hit, and I will continue to do so. If the hon. Lady has any further issues, I know that my hon. Friend the rail Minister will be delighted to meet her to talk through them.
I can tell the Secretary of State that residents and businesses in Aberconwy and across north Wales are delighted to hear that there will be £1 billion put towards the electrification of the north Wales main line. The last major infrastructure project we had along the north Wales coast was in 1987 for the Conwy tunnel. Like that tunnel, this project will be transformative for our local economies, for lives and for our connections with the north-west of England and down to London. Will my right hon. Friend confirm from the Dispatch Box, for residents and businesses in north Wales, that £1 billion will be attributed to the electrification of the north Wales main line, and will he meet me and my colleagues to confirm that those plans are progressing?
I would be pleased to meet my hon. Friend and colleagues, and I can confirm the money that we have put aside. I have already discussed the plans with Network Rail, which is starting work on detailing those plans. I am happy to meet him to talk them through in more detail.
I have campaigned for more than 18 years for the reopening of the Leamside line, which would enable the metro to come to Washington in my constituency —14 years longer than Paul Howell, who is a newcomer to that campaign. So hon. Members can imagine my joy when I saw it in print, the day after the Prime Minister’s speech—only for it to disappear 24 hours later. Far from it being the Opposition who went out spinning, it was Ministers on the Prime Minister’s own Front Bench who were on the airwaves spinning that nothing had changed after it disappeared. If it was just illustrative, why did it need to be deleted from the Network North document with other such illustrations?
It was not deleted from the Network North document. The Network North document that was published on the website has not changed, so— [Interruption.] Louise Haigh keeps going on about illustrative stuff. As I have said, £12 billion of the £36 billion was allocated to combined authority Mayors, so what it gets spent on is ultimately their decision. I know that that is a priority for the north-east, so it is one of the things on which we are working with them on a business case.
I am very pleased that Mrs Hodgson and my hon. Friend Paul Howell are both campaigning—it is always good when these things are done on a cross-party basis. I know that this is a priority for a region. The money is now there to pay for it, which was not the case before we took the decision to cancel the second phase of HS2. These things are only now able to happen because we took that decision. If the Opposition decide that they want to campaign to build the second phase of HS2, things such as the Leamside line will not happen.
If the seaside resorts, industrial towns and rural villages of Lincolnshire are to expand their economies, it is essential that the road network be improved. The A15, A16 and A46 are just three examples. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that some of the redirected £36 billion will head towards Lincolnshire, and will he arrange for me and neighbouring colleagues to meet the Minister with responsibility for roads to discuss future plans?
I would be very pleased for the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Mr Holden, to meet my hon. Friend and colleagues. Yes, there is money going to all local authorities to address the quality of their local roads. A number of road schemes, including the major road network and large local majors programmes, were funded in partnership between the Department and local authorities, but we are now able to pay all the costs to bring them to fruition more quickly. On specific local schemes, I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and local colleagues to talk them through that in more detail.
Building HS2 was a long-term decision for the future—investment for decades to come—not just to improve transport but to drive the economy of the north, which is why my south Manchester constituents once again feel let down by this Government. We now have the worst possible outcomes: £45 billion spent on half a job, without those long-term benefits for the north. That is not a long-term decision but a short-term, short-sighted failure.
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. First, the high-speed trains were not going to get to Manchester until 2041 anyway. Secondly, as the facts have changed, it has become clear that we will receive better returns on taxpayers’ hard-earned money by cancelling the second phase of HS2 and reinvesting every penny in alternative rail projects in the north, the midlands and elsewhere. We have set out the detail of that plan. I know that not everybody will agree with it—that is okay—but those who do not like what we have proposed instead have to be honest with people and say that campaigning to build the second phase of HS2 will mean that those other things cannot be done. The choice had to be made. We have made the right choice, which is to invest that money in things that will give a better return, sooner and for more people in more parts of the country. That is the right choice for the country, and a long-term decision for a better future.
I am a member of the High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill Select Committee. We have been sitting for nine months and have listened carefully to a lot of petitioners. My view is that HS2 has had a massive impact on many of those people’s lives. How can the Secretary of State ensure that the people who have already lost businesses and properties to make way for a railway line that will not be built have the option to get them back for a fair price?
One thing that we will do, as we work through the consequences of the decision, is set out the details exactly. I will not do so now because there are important legal consequences for such things, but we will set out the details exactly for people whose properties were subject to compulsory purchase orders—my hon. Friend will know, there are rules detailing what happens when such properties are no longer needed for the purpose for which they were purchased—to protect the constituents who were affected. We will set out details of how that will work in due course, and will keep her informed.
I was very pleased when the Prime Minister announced the electrification of the north Wales line, having been a long-term advocate of that sort of project. In fact, as long ago as 2003, I met the chair and chief executive of the then Strategic Rail Authority to press for it—he said no. Twenty years later, I remember the SRA’s motto, which was “Britain’s railway, properly delivered”. I was concerned that the Prime Minister noted a figure of £1 billion for the north Wales project; many commentators think that that is quite insufficient. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that the project will be properly delivered by being properly and fully funded?
I am grateful for what I think was a welcome for the north Wales mainline electrification. I met Network Rail following the announcement we made, and it will now do the detailed work on delivering that scheme. It will announce the details, the timeframe and so forth in the usual way, and I look forward to the hon. Gentleman’s support for each stage of the project.
I very much welcome the commitment to Ely North junction and also to Haughley junction. They will deliver major benefits for my constituents, including an hourly Peterborough to Ipswich service and better services to London. It will also benefit the midlands and the north by better connecting the busiest sea container port in Europe to the rail network. Haughley junction is a much cheaper and simpler project than Ely North junction. Is there scope to expedite and accelerate the delivery of that specific project, which will start delivering benefits on the ground for my constituents soon?
I am grateful for the campaigning work my hon. Friend has done on pushing for that scheme. It was very clear from the work that he and other colleagues have done that it was a very important priority. I can confirm that the Ely area capacity enhancement project includes Haughley junction, and we have started the work with Network Rail. It is seized of trying to do it as quickly as we can, but we obviously have to make sure it is done properly. I will keep him posted in the usual way.
No matter how much the Secretary of State tries to back-pedal, the fact is that the proposal to reopen the Leamside line was scrapped just 24 hours after it was announced, and businesses and communities in the north-east rightly feel betrayed. Who was it who decided that they would water down the proposal? Who decided that the Leamside line was far too north to be worthy of Government investment? Was it the Prime Minister, the Treasury or the Minister who sold out the north-east?
I am not quite sure why the hon. Lady does not think that an extra £685 million for transport in the north-east, adding up to £1.8 billion of investment, and the fact that we have started work with officials in that area on that project should not be welcomed. I think it should be welcomed, and I am sure that she and other colleagues who support it will continue working with us on making sure that it gets delivered.
The Secretary of State will be aware that Blackpool Council is considering spending millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on 90 zero-emission buses from China, instead of purchasing British ones. It is beyond farcical that taxpayer cash intended to support British jobs and local supply chains may be used to import poorer quality vehicles and ultimately end up in the hands of the Chinese Government. Will my right hon. Friend join me in urging Blackpool Council to support British jobs and investment, and to think again?
It is ultimately for local authorities to make decisions. They are accountable, and it is for them to make decisions about how they choose to spend the taxpayers’ money for which they are responsible. I have heard very clearly what my hon. Friend has said about where that money should be spent, and his local authority will have done so. More importantly, however, so will have his voters, and they will be able to make a decision about the council’s future in due course.
A number of years ago, the Conservative Government expressly instructed Members, local councils and other stakeholders not to focus on the electrification of the north Wales line. As a result, virtually the entire rail development case for Cheshire, north-east Wales and the Wirral was built on the premise of HS2. Have I heard the Secretary of State correctly that we are going to waste all the time, effort and money spent over the years, and go right back to the drawing board? To paraphrase Iain Stewart, what exactly is the plan?
I am not entirely certain exactly what the hon. Lady’s question was, but we have set out the plan very carefully. We are going to deliver the first phase of HS2 from Euston to Birmingham, we are going to cancel the second phase and we are going to reinvest every single penny—the £36 billion we have saved—in the north, the midlands and the rest of the country. That is a very clear plan, and I think it is one that will be welcomed by the public.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that, as per the Prime Minister’s recent announcement, the Ivanhoe line will be fully reopened, thereby linking Burton upon Trent to Leicester? Is the Secretary of State aware that even this week compulsory purchase orders are being issued and processed in respect of property and land on the now-cancelled HS2 route north of Birmingham?
On the second point, which is very important for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents, all outstanding claims for land that has already been acquired for phase 2 of HS2 will still be paid. Applications that are in progress will be handled on a case-by-case basis after consultation with the claimants, because people may well have made plans based on the land being purchased and it is important that we follow through on that, so there will be proper consultation with claimants before we make decisions to try to do the right thing by the people affected. The Ivanhoe line is going to be delivered.
I welcome sincerely the news of the Secretary of State’s support for Cullompton railway station. It is not new, given that my predecessor as MP for Tiverton and Honiton, Neil Parish, secured restoring your railway funding for Cullompton station two years ago. At that time, Neil said that
“construction could take place as early as 2024”; will the Secretary of State tell my constituents whether Cullompton station is still on track to open in this Parliament?
It is very important, when projects are promised, that we have the funds to pay for them, and it is by cancelling the second phase of HS2 that we are able to fund that important project, which I am glad the hon. Gentleman welcomes. I do not think that the rail Minister and I, in the time we have been in post, have had any communication from the hon. Gentleman campaigning for the station, whereas my hon. Friend Simon Jupp has campaigned for it assiduously, as has my hon. Friend Rebecca Pow.