National Networks National Policy Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:22 pm on 26 March 2024.

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Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:22, 26 March 2024

I had anticipated a slightly longer opening speech from the Minister. Nevertheless, here we are today to debate a new national networks national policy statement, a decade after the previous statement was published in 2014. Grant Shapps originally promised that the Government would review the NNNPS in July 2021, but here we are, nearly three years on from that promise and a decade on from the last published statement. Perhaps the Minister could explain why it took so long to get to this point.

The UK committed to reach net zero by 2050 when we signed the Paris agreement in 2015. It is not good enough that it took nine years for net zero to finally be integrated into the NNNPS. Since 2015, we have moved backwards on net zero. Just look at the Prime Minister’s delaying of the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans. This rowing back on net zero is not just a disaster for the planet; it will worsen the cost of living crisis for drivers, with an estimated cost to consumers of an eye-watering £13 billion in higher fuel costs as a direct result of the Prime Minister’s decision.

Then there is the mess he made of HS2. The irony and symbolism of where he made the announcement is lost on no one: a disused railway station at the end of the proposed line. Everyone recognises the impact of the decision on net zero. Even the writers of “The Thick of It” would have dismissed such a plotline as far too implausible.

Freight trains have 76% fewer emissions than the equivalent road transport capacity, but because of the Prime Minister’s chaotic decision making, half a million more lorry journeys will add to the clogging up of our roads every year by carrying freight that could have been delivered by rail. I wonder whether the Minister will respond to that point about rail freight.