It is a delight, possibly a honour, to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I start by thanking my hon. Friend David Tredinnick for this useful, important and timely debate, which ties into a wider pattern of effective and successful lobbying from Members and colleagues from the same area.
My hon. Friend will know that this is an important area not merely for its road transport connections but for its history. He referenced the battle of Watling Street in AD 60-61, tragically not referring to my hon. Friend Giles Watling, at the opposite end of whose constituency one would hope the road would ultimately end, but referring to the great Roman victory. Of course, the day after celebrating the suffragettes and the suffragists, I note the tragedy of our greatest suffragette, Boudicca, suffering her untimely defeat at such a moment. I thank him for the historical reference.
In order to respond to the comments from Rachael Maskell about RIS 1, I will start by laying out the Government’s overall approach. The debate has been interesting in the way that it has blended national and regional concerns relating to the road investment strategy’s second phase and the question whether this project should be a candidate for an expressway, with specifically local concerns, such as Mancetter island and so on, which Highways England might be invited to consider as part of its local responsibilities. It is important to keep those two balanced.
As hon. Members will know, in recent years, the Government have taken a much more long-term, phased and planned approach to investment in the strategic road network, including our motorways and main A roads. That has been a very important development over the last five to seven years. We do so for a specific reason, which is that when there is more longevity in the system and greater visibility of funding in the overall envelopes, there can be better planning, costs can be driven down in relative terms and productivity can be improved; overall, there should be greater certainty of delivery.