Economic Growth: South-west — [Albert Owen in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 5th February 2019.

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Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon 2:30 pm, 5th February 2019

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I do celebrate that tremendous project and success story. He is right that it is something for the entire region, not just for the county of Somerset, and we are pleased to be supporting it.

All of what I have said so far is about the things that are going well in our region. What we have welcomed from the Government in the past 12 months or so includes some of the things that were mentioned in the Budget. The transforming cities fund is hopefully of great benefit to Plymouth, and perhaps the Minister will say something about the timescales for decisions on that. The freezing of cider duty was well received by the apple producers of Somerset and, indeed, throughout the region. We have seen the improvements to the Dawlish seawall get under way in the past few months, and I will come on to talk about the major announcement that we anticipate. We welcome the new Great Western Railway trains, which are having a gradual impact on our crucial Penzance to Paddington link—a very pleasant travel experience. We welcome the £10 million for fisheries innovation, to help local fishers.

In January 2019, planning permission for the north Devon link road was given, and I pay tribute to the persistence of my hon. Friend Peter Heaton-Jones. When he started talking about the link road, we all thought, “That can never happen. There is no money in the jam jar for that. He is just off on ‘a frolic of his own’, as Lord Denning once said”. Well, his frolic is bearing fruit, and well done to him for being such an incredible campaigner for his constituents.

We welcome and celebrate the major work to tackle flooding at Cowley, east of Exeter. We all remember the red sausage, or the balloon, that was in evidence some two or three years ago. That should now be a thing of the past, thanks to Network Rail’s investment.

We welcome the Government’s industrial strategy and the fact that our local enterprise partnerships are working hard with officials from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to develop a local industrial strategy, looking especially at productivity, which I know will be music to the Minister’s ears.

Finally, we must not forget our farmers. We have excellent farmers throughout the region and they welcome the fact that the Government are listening to them and helping to shape our UK-wide agriculture policy post Brexit. I have said two words that I know some of my friends will be very, very pleased to hear.

What do we now need from the Government? I will focus on that for a few minutes, and I will then conclude and let others have a say. We await, of course, the major Dawlish announcement. Today is the fifth anniversary of those extraordinary images of the railway line waving in mid-air and everything beneath being washed away by the winds and waves of that winter’s storms. I will never forget the journey we have been on since then, via Downing Street, the Peninsula Rail Task Force, the 20-year plan and the negotiating with Government. Of course such things take time but, even though the announcement will, I hope, come next week, and even though I think it will be a good and fully funded one that we will all welcome, for me, it has taken at least 12 months too long. The region has become impatient. It will be fine, provided we get what we are looking for, and perhaps the Minister can say something about that.