Regional Transport Infrastructure — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:48 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport) 3:48 pm, 5th March 2019

It is an absolute pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Ryan. I am not a huge reader of Tom Clancy, but I think that Jack Ryan could take your correspondence course when it comes to bravery in public office, so thank you very much indeed. I congratulate my friend Dan Jarvis on securing the debate, and all hon. Members who participated in the wide-ranging conversation.

I know that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central, with his mayoral hat on, will hope, as do the Department and I, that he will be able to complete the devolution deal that he has in mind for the Sheffield city region, releasing powers and funding. Although I know that is not always the position held on the Government Benches, we have been working closely with him on that. As he said, transport is essential for prosperity, growth and wellbeing across the whole country. We recognise that good transport infrastructure is absolutely essential to productivity. That point was well made by my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake, who highlighted the productivity gap in this country. That means delivering new infrastructure, from strategic and regional priorities all the way down to the local level. I will touch on all of those levels, while addressing as many of the points that have been raised by hon. Members as I can.

As hon. Members will know, in 2017 the Government published a very ambitious transport investment strategy, setting out our ambition to build a stronger and more balanced economy within the industrial strategy more widely, and responding to local growth priorities. That has conditioned the investments we have made ever since.

On the road side—hon. Members know that I am the roads Minister—we have invested heavily in existing transport infrastructure and new schemes, with some £15 billion being spent through road investment strategy 1 between 2015 and 2020. In the 2018 Budget the Government published objectives for road investment strategy 2, which will run from 2020 to 2025 and include £25.3 billion to be made available to further develop and improve the strategic road network. We are developing an affordable and deliverable investment plan for RIS2, which will be published later this year.

I could not help noticing that Rachael Maskell was extremely rude about road building and called it catastrophic. Does that constitute a change of policy on the part of the whole Labour party? I encourage her not to think of it in that way, because road investment strategy 2 not only includes hundreds of millions of pounds for cycling and walking schemes and an enormous investment in skills, which she cares very much about, but paves the ways for autonomous and electric vehicles, which will be the vehicle—if I may use the pun—for the decarbonisation and greening of our economy in the longer term.