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Local Infrastructure (East Midlands)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:12 am on 20th March 2018.

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Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin Conservative, Derbyshire Dales 10:12 am, 20th March 2018

I completely agree with the Minister. There is always talk about the investment that goes on in London. At the moment, there is Crossrail, which is a big investment. It is a project that has been wanted in the city for more than 40 years. I was a junior Transport Minister when Cecil Parkinson first announced he had the go-ahead, and it will be completed by the end of the year. Yes, it distorts the figures as far as the rest of the country is concerned, but we in the east midlands should be pleased about Crossrail, because the trains that will go on it are being built by Bombardier. Projects such as Crossrail and HS2 are national projects and the thing to do is ensure that we get investment in companies right across the country. The fact that the Crossrail carriages are being built in Derby and will, hopefully by the end of the year, run on the Elizabeth line—the name of the Crossrail line—is a fantastic achievement and, what is more, a fantastic engineering achievement for our country. I want to pay tribute, in this year of the engineer, to those people who have been progressing the build and the design of Crossrail.

It is misleading for people to confuse the investment in London, saying, “We’re not getting the same as London”. The investment in St Pancras station is beneficial to the east midlands. I remember going there 20 years ago and at that time no one would have wanted to spend more than five minutes there, instead arriving just as their train was leaving. Now, for those arriving half an hour early it is a fantastic place to be, almost a destination in its own right. I believe that St Pancras station is good news for the east midlands, because journeys to the region from London start from one of the finest stations in the country—likewise with King’s Cross. We need to get that right.

Earlier this year, the Government announced some money out of their marginal viability fund—something from the housing investment fund I understand—dedicating £55 million to the east midlands for various schemes. Here I want to come on to something that my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire said. I ask the Government to consider how they say to local authorities that money will be made available for schemes that lead to housing development. On the Staveley bypass, my hon. Friend said there would be housing development within the scheme. When I was Secretary of State for Transport, I had something called the local pinch point fund. It was £170 million in one year and was allocated on the basis of developers and local authorities coming forward with plans for road improvements of up to £10 million, which would lead to either more jobs or more housing. That seems a little like the marginal viability fund. I say to the Minister that sometimes such things are overcomplicated and should be much more straightforward and that future plans should be made available.

Seeing as we are all plugging our own schemes this morning, one scheme I would like to see—I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire will not mind me saying this—is the Ashbourne bypass. It would fit well into this particular project. It has already been partly bypassed on the A52, but the bit that links the A52 up to the A515 still needs to be done. If that scheme took place, that would lead to more housing development in the corridor where the new bypass would be.

It is important that we get the whole question of large-scale infrastructure investment right so that the region has the ability to attract business and companies. In the east midlands, we should not sell ourselves short. If we look at the Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire borders, we have world-class engineering in Bombardier, Rolls-Royce, JCB and Toyota. They are world leaders and world-beaters in engineering. There is no doubt that is important for the prosperity of the area.

I ask the Government to be more open about when the other funds will be available. Shovel-ready schemes are important so that work can be started and got under way very quickly. The annoying thing that people get really angry about is that plans for housing development seem to take forever before the houses get built. Also, having given planning permissions for schemes, I know that more attention should be given to what money goes locally, such as to local schools. Sometimes the funds available are kept a bit too quiet and not too public.

I take issue with the hon. Member for Chesterfield only in so far as in the 30 years I have been in the House of Commons, I have not seen infrastructure investment in the east midlands like that we have seen over the past few years and will see in the future.