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Westminster Hall

Wednesday 26 July 2000

[Sir Alan Haselhurst in the Chair]

Yorkshire and Humberside

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.--[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

9.30 am

Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central): I welcome you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to our debate on transport strategy and economic development in the Yorkshire and Humberside region--a wide-ranging subject for what I hope will be a wide-ranging debate. I kept the subject of our debate deliberately wide to enable hon. Members to raise various aspects of transport strategy as it relates to their constituencies. I congratulate everyone who is in the Chamber on being wide awake and willing to take part in the debate this morning, bearing in mind that the House did not adjourn until 3.50 am.

The area stretches from north Yorkshire, with its rural communities and resulting transport problems, to south Yorkshire, with its industrial heritage and regeneration problems, to west Yorkshire and its commercial and financial centre of Leeds, to Humberside and the port regions. It is a wide area which suffers diverse transport and economic problems. My colleagues from the region are here today to speak about their areas. I am no exception to that and I shall speak about Barnsley and south Yorkshire, but first it is appropriate to give an overview of the region and to explain some of the transport and economic aspects that are crucial to the area.

At present, Yorkshire and Humberside regional development agency operates under the title of Yorkshire Forward. The initial page of its website states:

At the beginning of this year, however, south Yorkshire qualified for objective 1 status. An area does not achieve such a status with relish. It is not a badge of honour, but a sign of how poorly an area is performing compared with the rest of the European Union. One of the criteria for European Union objective 1 status is that the gross domestic product of a certain area has fallen to below 75 per cent. of the European Union average, and that has clearly happened in south Yorkshire. In fact, the GDP in my constituency has fallen to 66 per cent. Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley, in particular, have dragged the area to below the 75 per cent. level. Some people may say that 66 per cent. GDP does not

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mean a lot, but when one realises that it is less than the figure for Poland and for southern Portugal, one soon begins to realise just how poor south Yorkshire is. I hope that the objective 1 money will help drag us back above those figures and bring back some of the prosperity that has been drained away.

The full utilisation of the objective 1 money is therefore one of the key issues for our area. We must ensure that there are adequate sources of match funding, as I will discuss in regard to transport, so that we draw down every penny that is available. We must also ensure that the programme is on time. We are already six months into the first year of the six-year programme of objective 1 status and we are still waiting for projects to be approved and for approval of the single programming document from the European Union. Some projects must be committed before the end of the year so that we keep to the timetables; we can wait for the money to follow.

Mr. John Healey (Wentworth): On match funding and the speed with which projects can be brought into being, does my hon. Friend agree that the Chancellor's confirmation in the spending review last week that match funding is guaranteed for not just objective 1 but objective 2 and 3 programmes was helpful, but that we need to simplify the system so that areas such as south Yorkshire can draw down match funding from national Departments? The second stage of the work is to make sure that match funding is accessible and that projects can come on stream quickly in the way that my hon. Friend has described.

Mr. Illsley : I agree with my hon. Friend. The Chancellor's statements are welcome and it is reassuring that the Government have promised match funding. We look forward to that filtering through. My hon. Friend is right that we have to move to stage two and keep to our timetables so that our projects are ready.

I shall make one further point on objective 1. I said that Barnsley's GDP European average was 66 per cent. and Sheffield's was around 75 per cent. so it was Barnsley, and to some extent Rotherham, that brought the whole of the region below the magic figure. Sheffield must not take a huge share of that objective 1 money, compared with Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley. It is pleasing that one of the Sheffield Members, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan), is present.

Mr. Healey : And he is nodding.

Mr. Illsley : Yes. We have to ensure that Sheffield does not ride on the back of the rest of south Yorkshire. It was brought into an objective 1 area not because of its own economic performance but because of that of other areas, and it must not then walk away with the lion's share of the money. I hope that that does not arise, but I wish to flag up the possibility.

Mr. Healey : Uncharacteristically, I would like to speak up for Sheffield. What my hon. Friend says is right, but does he recognise that the future success of south Yorkshire depends critically on the future success of Sheffield at the heart of that economic restructuring?

Mr. Illsley : I am not sure how to answer that. It has caught me a little off guard. Perhaps it does, but I do not

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agree fully with my hon. Friend that the rest of south Yorkshire has relied on Sheffield, although it is the major city in the grouping. Barnsley is, of course, the capital of south Yorkshire and has been since 1974, which might have some bearing on my thinking. My hon. Friend makes the point well that the area needs to progress in a united way, without rifts and arguments, to make sure that we take advantage of objective 1 money.

I shall deal later with the climate change levy, which is one of the problems of economic development in my area, but I turn now to transport. The Yorkshire and Humberside region has a diverse transport sector, much of which needs greater development and improvement in order to increase economic development. Accompanying the 10-year plan for transport funding that resulted from the comprehensive spending review was a Government statement that gives some idea of the diversity of our transport:

As that brief introduction stated, some of our motorways are congested, especially the M1 near Sheffield--junctions 30 to 34--and the M62.

Mr. Harold Best (Leeds, North-West): Does my hon. Friend agree that long-established rail links will be vital to the future of the entire county of West Yorkshire and the wider region? I have in mind the rail link that passes within half a mile of the airport at Leeds-Bradford. If it were linked to the airport, an integrated air, rail and road system could be introduced. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important to do that?

Mr. Illsley : Absolutely. It is an essential part of our economic development and transport strategy that we integrate all aspects of transport, including our rail transport and our airports. I shall discuss in a moment the need for better access to our airports and railways from different parts of the area. My constituency of Barnsley is not even linked to the east coast main line by rail, so we cannot access that line from Barnsley. My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I entirely agree.

As I said, the east coast main line is developing bottlenecks. We still do not have direct services to the channel tunnel, and they are a long way off. When Members representing the region were involved in debates on the channel tunnel rail link, we pressed hard for direct rail services through our area to the channel tunnel, but we still await them.

Our rural services need improvement. Historically, south Yorkshire has high levels of bus usage; indeed, in the 1970s, south Yorkshire, Sheffield and Barnsley were the highest users of bus transport in western Europe. Also, until 1986, we had a cheap fares policy.

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As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Mr. Best) said, we have airports--Leeds-Bradford and Humberside. The debate continues on Finningley, but the development is a concrete proposal. I do not want to take up time debating the case of one airport against another. That would be wrong, because we want more air services and airports in the region as a whole. However, I point to it as a matter for the future, and I am sure that it will feature in today's debate.

Whatever the arguments about Finningley and Leeds-Bradford or about Manchester airport taking passengers from Yorkshire, for example, the essential point is that Yorkshire and Humberside need better air services. Our air transport facilities need improvement, and we need more airlines and services.

I turn now to some of the relevant issues for my constituency and south Yorkshire. Part of the research into objective 1 status identified some of the key transport constraints on economic development in south Yorkshire. I read only yesterday an article in the 18 July edition of the local newspaper for Barnsley, The Star. Its headline was "£215m needed to bring 20,000 jobs--Massive investment in transport vital, says study". The study, commissioned for south Yorkshire, states that £215 million of investment is needed to bring jobs to Sheffield in south Yorkshire. The report, which is from the Babtie group of consultants, has been published recently, and again emphasises the fact that we need to deal with our transport limitations.

I shall quickly skim through the key problems. They include the Midland Mainline capacity restrictions between Sheffield and Doncaster. There are long journey times south of our region, which simply are not competitive when compared to journey times on the M1. It is simpler to drive to the south of the country than to take the Midland Mainline train. The east coast main line also has capacity restrictions, which are now being tackled. I understand that a new means of access close to the M18 is proposed for it, but there is no direct rail link between Barnsley and that railway. We do not have direct trans-Pennine rail services to Manchester international airport from Barnsley. We hope that proposals to reopen the Woodhead line will be supported.

South Yorkshire's rail network is characterised by low-speed services, poor reliability due to limitations of track and signalling infrastructure, poor service integration, old rolling stock and low-frequency timetables. The poor rail services between Sheffield, Barnsley and Leeds mean that is easier simply to drive on the M1. The availability of parking at the Meadowhall shopping centre does not help. As a consequence, commuters and others opt to travel by car, which adds to congestion. The direct links from south Yorkshire into the Humber ports are somewhat poorly developed.

The M1 corridor between junctions 31 and 37 is a problem, and there is severe congestion at junction 34 because of the Meadowhall interchange outside Sheffield. The M18 corridor has capacity limitations between junctions 2 and 3. The east-west corridors from Barnsley and south Yorkshire over the Pennines to Manchester are restricted. The A628 is limited by its tortuous nature and the fact that it passes through a national park, so it is difficult to improve the road. There are many journeys from Barnsley to Manchester

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international airport, but the transport links are not good enough. The development of Finningley airport at Doncaster could give us an alternative to Manchester international airport.

There are three priorities in what is known as the single programming document for objective 1 that relate directly to transport. Priority 4 focuses on the role of community transport services in supporting the development of economic opportunities in targeted communities. That sounds a bit waffley, but I shall give an example. Grimethorpe colliery was one of the most profitable collieries in the country until it was closed. Now that it is no longer there, the village has no visible employment. Anyone who lives there who wants to travel to the other side of Barnsley for employment does not have a bus service. There is no public transport available to get someone from the village to his or her job for a shift starting at 6 o'clock in the morning.

Priority 5 is to support business investment through strategic spatial development in the three strategic economic zones located near to the motorway. We must improve transport for those strategic sites so that we can move goods and people. Priority 6 is to remove transport constraints on economic growth. We are required to select the three key transport bottlenecks that adversely affect the delivery of world-class rail passenger and rail freight links, the efficient operation of the strategic road network and strategic airlines.

I turn to the south Yorkshire transport plan, which is a five-year bid for transport capital resources within south Yorkshire. The first bid is for £20 million a year in each of the next five years for integrated transport measures. The second is for £13.8 million for structural maintenance funds, and the third is for seven new transportation schemes, three of which are within my constituency.

Given the announcement of the 10-year plan of extra funding from Government, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions will respond by saying that the money will be readily available in the amounts required and that all those projects will go ahead. Some important local projects also depend on the south Yorkshire transport plan, including the Great North road quality bus corridor in Doncaster, the Cudworth bypass in Barnsley and the Barnsley busway, the Sheffield inner ring road and the West Bawtry road.

My final point relates to economic development and the climate change levy, although that is somewhat outside the terms of the debate. However, it is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to set up the rebate schemes that compensate for the effect of the tax on jobs. I have objected to the levy since its inception because I do not believe that it is necessary. It is a tax on manufacturing jobs and is costing jobs in my constituency, particularly in the glass industry. There is a company called Potters Ballotini, which manufactures glass, that is not within the integrated pollution prevention and control directive so cannot qualify for the 80 per cent., just as Pilkington Glass or Automotive Windscreens cannot, although they are major users of energy in producing glass products. They will fall outside the rebate and the costs that will come to them will be extensive.

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I would also like to know whether those proposed 80 per cent. rebates have been found to be uncompetitive within the European Union, or whether they will go ahead. Will we be taxed on delivered energy or primary energy? Will the 90:10 rule, which applies to processes outside the IPPC on single-site factories, be extended or left as it is? How much leeway will there be for other processes on same-site factories? How sure is the Minister that all the proposals will be covered, given that they are due to be published in January 2001, for a tax that will affect my constituents in the April that year?

In conclusion, there are diverse issues in relation to transport and economic development in Yorkshire and Humberside, covering rural and industrial areas. We need to improve transport industries to allow south Yorkshire--Yorkshire and Humberside--to develop to their full potential. I referred specifically to south Yorkshire, because transport needs to develop more quickly in that area, so that we may catch up with the more affluent areas. My key message is that we need that transport development to enable our area to develop to its full potential.

9.54 am

Mr. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): It is with great personal pleasure that I contribute to the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on his success in securing this timely debate, and for the excellent way in which he linked wider regional matters to the publication last week of the 10-year transport plan.

With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall focus on my part of the region--north Yorkshire, and especially the north Yorkshire coast. I shall speak about the challenges and opportunities that face the communities of Whitby and Scarborough, and my belief that the economic regeneration of that part of Yorkshire rests totally on the continuing success of the policies that have been introduced by the Labour Government, with specific emphasis on the transport policies--an excellent route map--laid before Parliament last week by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister.

Before I continue, it would be remiss of me not to place on record my entry in the Register of Members' Interests. I hope that my past professional interest in transport management and construction will be regarded as a strong basis for the arguments that I shall attempt to deploy this morning. Working as a civil engineer, particularly in the region's railway industry, managing, developing and improving the country's civil engineering infrastructure over 18 sometimes very long years gave me the opportunity to view transportation from the coal face. Transport policy over those 18 years resulted in a legacy of failure. I estimate that two thirds of my design work for the much-needed renewal, enhancement and maintenance of railway structures now lies in a dusty drawer in the planning room among Railtrack's regional archives.

That personal overview spurred me into action, my personal agenda being to gain election to Parliament. Fundamentally, I am an engineer. I try to solve problems; I do not want to be part of the problem. From that basic philosophy, I regard the work of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister over the past three years as being at the heart of transport and economic regeneration, not only for my region but for the communities there.

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Scarborough and Whitby have seen the start of the delivery of much-needed assistance. European objective 2 status has been granted for 95 per cent. of the community, and last week the match funding for that initiative was announced. We have also seen the Government's acceptance of Scarborough's £17 million integrated transport scheme. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his personal interest in bringing forward that initiative. I commend him for his personal expertise; the many years that he spent working in transportation have undoubtedly added to his reputation as a Minister who solves problems rather than makes them.

I was a member of the Committee that considered the Transport Bill, and I and my hon. Friends amended the Bill to include a much-needed national transport concessionary scheme for pensioners. My constituency, which did not have such a scheme, benefits from that initiative. Again, I commend my hon. Friend the Minister and his team for listening to and acting upon the representations made by the people who live on the north Yorkshire coast.

I turn to the reason why I wanted to make a contribution to this debate. For far too long, and under Governments of both parties, the transport lifeline into Scarborough and Whitby, the A64 trunk road corridor, has been the first road investment scheme to be chopped whenever the nation's finances looked bleak. That was certainly the case in 1995, when the long-awaited proposals were again kicked into the long grass. I should be staggered if any of the hon. Members here who have made the journey along the A64 did not appreciate how strange it was to cut that scheme, as they, too, will have sat in traffic jams for many hours when heading to the coast. Scarborough and Whitby offer visitors a warm welcome, but those trying to get there sometimes need a lot of patience.

The previous Governments' short-term transport policies, which were linked to their failed economic policies of boom and bust, were wrong in 1995. The failure to redress the mistake in the light of the forward-looking agenda of the new Government's transport policies for a new century would condemn my community to economic starvation and a bleak future. We could become the south Yorkshire at the northern end of our region unless action is taken. We are here to help prepare for success and not for the isolation and failure that would be induced by more than a million traffic jams and a million frustrated vehicle journeys into the constituency.

Last week's foresighted statement concerning the nation's trunk roads as part of the 10-year plan gives the people of Whitby and Scarborough hope such as they have not experienced for more than a generation. The prospect of a multi-modal study of the A64 corridor was also the focus of representations to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who was able to visit my constituency last week. He had discussions with the senior management of McCains Foods, a world-class food manufacturer based in Eastfield in my constituency. Hon. Members will be familiar with the firm's products if they choose French fries in the restaurants of the House. The company is considering future investment plans. The Minister of

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Agriculture was given a clear message in no uncertain terms, from that important manufacturer with which to return to Government. Future investment for McCains will depend totally on the logistics and the future of the A64 corridor. The firm speaks up for the industrial businesses in Scarborough and Whitby. I expect next week, when the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Janet Anderson), visits my constituency, that the hard-pressed tourism sector will strongly reinforce that message.

The multi-modal studies will allow a real investigation into the most serious problems on the region's trunk road network, including the lifeline into my constituency. We will be able to focus on the issues that were not addressed in the targeted programme of improvements laid out in the 10-year plan. The studies will allow an examination of the role of every type of transport. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central suggested, we need a total integrated solution in my community and our region generally. We need to make the best use of the resources and the facilities that we have now and to place investment where it will have most impact.

I commend the work done for many years by North Yorkshire county council and by Scarborough borough council, which have dusted off previous arguments deployed to earlier Transport Ministers regarding the future of the A64 corridor and which have allowed me to present some perspective on what is happening at the moment.

The A64 is the only trunk road to serve the Scarborough and Whitby area. As such, its strategic importance cannot be over-emphasised. That has been recognised by the Department, with proposals for a dual carriageway between Malton and Staxton on the outskirts of my constituency. The A64 links the important regional centre of Leeds with the A1, Tadcaster, York, Malton and Seamer. It is especially important because it provides an access route to the North Yorkshire Moors national park, about 60 per cent. of which is in my constituency, the Yorkshire wolds and all the east coast resorts. The road is an important lifeline and its national status has been recognised by its being retained as a core trunk route.

Economic regeneration for my community and the nearby coastal areas has been confirmed at European level following designation as a rural priority area and an objective 2 area for European Union structural funds. Nationally, the Government have given support to the town and urban areas of Scarborough with two single regeneration budget programmes. In May 2000, the employment rate for my constituency was more than double that of the rest of the county of North Yorkshire. Everyone recognises that Scarborough and Whitby are wonderful places to go on holiday. They are prime tourist destinations, the birthplace of the British seaside industry, and of national importance, especially when one considers the beauty and historical context of Whitby. There were almost 11 million visitor days in 1999, but the area's potential is not fully met. We can offer the sort of quality experience that people are seeking in their recreation time.

The challenges to tourism in the area hang on the fact that people have moved away from the long-stay holiday to the short break. Weekend breaks and

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additional holidays, which sometimes involve shorter journey times, are influenced by the quality of communication links. Therefore, the poor quality of the links to my constituency is fundamental to the future of tourism in Scarborough and Whitby. Virtually every other major seaside resort and conference centre already has a high-quality dualled connection to motorway networks, and that has an impact on the potential economic development of any area around our coastline.

Linked to the partnership that we have forged in our region for economic development, in particular with Yorkshire Forward, I ask the Minister to consider other aspects of the review for which I am calling. The county council, in partnership with Scarborough borough council, the Highways Agency, Railtrack and English, Welsh, Scottish Railway are investigating ways of encouraging the use of the passenger-only lines from York to Scarborough for the movement of freight. The railway part of the A64 corridor is not currently being used for freight, but its potential is tremendous, especially because of the major industrial companies that are located in Scarborough, such as Pinder Printers. That company is well known to the Minister and is a world leader in transport and travel information systems. In addition, Plaxtons, the bus manufacturers, provide about 45 per cent. of buses for the national and international market. Those companies, which are major players in the local economy, are totally reliant on good logistical links into Scarborough.

The partnership that has been forged with Yorkshire Forward, the possibility of an inter-modal study and investment in the corridor are fundamental to the future of my community. Following the Government's welcome strategy for coastal shipping, there is tremendous potential for Whitby, a coastal port, to fulfil its part in the maritime economics of the country. However, Whitby is restricted by the fact that there are inadequate transportation links into the port. I remind the Minister of the much-heralded proposal to reconnect the railway line from the trans-Pennine corridor--from Malton, up through Pickering--to the current line of the North Yorkshire Moors railway. An estimated cost of £19 million has been forwarded for the consideration of the Strategic Rail Authority. It is essential for Whitby's future that that sum should be provided for a link, not only for recreation but to revitalise the area.

I want to comment briefly on the region's airport strategy. Most people who leave Scarborough and Whitby for international flights would tend to take the trans-Pennine railway route directly to Manchester airport. We desperately need an important integrated link into Leeds-Bradford as soon as possible. That is fundamental to the prosperity of the region and essential to the future of my community. Our area of north Yorkshire is looking to the world. We want to play our part, and transport links are fundamental to that.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Nicholas Winterton ): Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), I should point out that at least three other Yorkshire Members have shown interest in participating in the debate. I hope that subsequent speakers will take that into account.

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10.11 am

Caroline Flint (Don Valley): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) for securing the debate. I know that he shares my desire to ensure that south Yorkshire is part of the renaissance of the Yorkshire and Humber region.

There are many aspects of transport on which I could focus. I am pleased to have played a small part in helping to convene a transport conference in the Don valley with my hon. Friends the Members for Wentworth (Mr. Healey) and for Barnsley, East and Mexborough (Mr. Ennis). I dealt with the links between transport and child care development. The two factors most often cited by people who are asked what prevents them from getting into work are transport and child care. Work is needed to bring about an imaginative connection between providers of the two.

I give notice to my hon. Friend the Minister and to Ministers at the Department for Education and Employment that I intend to seek a debate on school transport after the summer recess. We need safer routes to school for children, and, although there is much talk of the road congestion caused by the school run, no extension of school bus services seems to be taking place. However, today I want to talk about airports in the region.

The Yorkshire and Humber region is punching below its weight in the aviation industry, among others. Perhaps, with the Finningley site in my constituency, I could be accused of parochialism, but I have always said that if there is no business case for that site, and if there are airports in the region that can provide the services that I believe that Finningley alone can provide, those who think so should stand up and speak. However, they cannot do that. We are one of the poorest regions in the country with respect to the aviation industry, which has a contribution to make to the regional economy and jobs. Social benefits would also be derived from such infrastructure.

Finningley should be considered in context. The proposed Doncaster Finningley airport would not be a 60-million-passenger Heathrow or a 20-million-passenger Manchester. In 15 years it would cater for 2.3 million passengers. It would be half the size of Newcastle airport in 2015 and smaller than Leeds-Bradford airport. However, according to the Transport Research Laboratory, the airport and associated business parks would result in gross regional employment creation of between 7,130 and 7,700 jobs. The displacement of aviation business at other regional airports in Yorkshire and Humber would be modest. One reason for that is that air passenger numbers are set to double over the next 15 years. Another is that, as Ed Anderson, the director of Leeds-Bradford airport, said to the Bradford Telegraph and Argus in March,

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I agree with Mr. Anderson that Leeds-Bradford and Humberside are crucial to their local populations and play an important role for local business by providing links to Europe. They will continue to do so. However, the limitation on the region's economic development is not that those airports cannot take more planes on their runways and passengers through terminals--"capacity" as those in the industry call it--but that they cannot develop long-haul services. Runway length is a crucial limitation. We are all aware of the tragedy that happened yesterday. Hon. Members may say that Concorde can fly from Leeds and can fly transatlantic. Yes, it can. However, that is not the same as true long-haul potential.

That is not a partisan view that is taken only by me. In the inquiry into Liverpool airport in 1995, the evidence from Manchester Airport plc stated that Liverpool's runway

A recent study of eight commonly used long-haul aircraft showed that only three could land at Leeds or Humberside. Seven of the eight could land at Finningley, including the Airbus A300 and the Boeing 757. That explains why Bill McGrorty, aviation director of Airtours, stated in Travel Weekly that, if Finningley does not proceed, Airtours would have to locate services abroad. The company operates from more than 20 airports. He remarked:

Airtours is Britain's fifth largest air freight operator. Nowadays, 95 per cent. of air cargo goes in the belly of passenger aircraft. That is not a large-scale business at Leeds or Humberside, but imagine the potential of a plane a day landing from Miami, Orlando or New York. Cargo could make a huge contribution to our economic competitiveness. It is an entire aviation sector in which Yorkshire and Humber fail to compete, while Manchester, East Midlands and London take all the prizes. Long-haul and air freight services represent a gap in our air transport services that inhibits our economic competitiveness. It is incumbent on all Yorkshire and Humber Members of Parliament to face our regional shortcomings and to do something about them.

Finningley would be small in terms of any national or international comparisons--but God bless the Ministry of Defence for bequeathing such a fantastic brownfield site to our region. The business park and the airport wouldadd between £100 million and £130 million per year to Yorkshire's domestic product by 2015. That represents investment, spending power, passenger power and business opportunities that have so far bypassed the region.

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I urge all Members of Parliament who represent Yorkshire and Humber to celebrate and promote our ports, our rail port, which serves Humberside, our motorway network, which bisects the country, and our east coast main line, with its long-term potential. With a new airport in south Yorkshire, we could boast a full house in air services--the business link to Europe from Sheffield, to major European cities from Humberside, and to the Caribbean, Chicago or San Francisco from Finningley.

Before I finish, I urge my colleagues to disregard the misleading and alarmist spin that they often receive from the Finningley airport network. As some hon. Members will know, Mr. Kevin McDonald has financed the campaign against Finningley. I should like to know whether Mr. McDonald, as he is an owner of Gamston airport, ever bid to use Finningley for aviation use. It is time that the public were told, and I have written to him about it. Did he ever employ Mr. Bell, his surveyor, who currently organises his campaign against Finningley, to appraise the site, check its condition and estimate its value? Now that Mr. McDonald is not the owner of Finningley, he may be gamekeeper turned poacher--desperately trying to convince anyone who will listen that this extraordinary site, in a low population area with the second longest runway in the north, would be better as something other than an airport.

Tonight, I shall present a petition on behalf of my constituents in Don Valley, the constituents of my hon. Friends the Members for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes), for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton) and for Barnsley, East and Mexborough, and people in the surrounding areas. More than 21,000 of them have said, "We want this airport. We don't need a public inquiry." It makes the business case for itself, and, in the light of objective 1, gives real hope for the regeneration of south Yorkshire.

10.20 am

Mr. John Grogan (Selby): My constituency is currently enjoying the prospect of a double whammy of investment in its transport infrastructure. It is a matter of some local pride that, when the roads review was undertaken in the first year of this Government, well over 5,000 of the 5,500 representations received from the entire Yorkshire region originated from my Selby constituency, and related to the Selby bypass. After a 60-year wait, construction of the Selby bypass will begin next July, and the contract will be advertised throughout Europe this summer. The bypass will improve traffic flow in the town and the local environment and much industrial land will be freed, which could provide investment and jobs as the mines decline during the coming decades.

However, there is more than just the bypass. The rail link to London, which was terminated when the coalfield was established 20 years ago and the east coast main line was diverted, has been restored. One train a day from Hull--colloquially known as the Prescott express--stops at Selby on its way to London. Seeing the name of one's town displayed at King's Cross station as a direct destination is a bit like seeing one's football team get promoted to the second or third division. There is more to come. In a few weeks' time, a new company, Hull Trains, will run three direct trains a day each way that stop at Selby.

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However, I want to concentrate my remarks on the nuts and bolts of public transport in our region, which includes buses as well as trains. In Selby, Scarborough--I enjoyed the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Quinn)--and the whole of north Yorkshire, it is boom time for rural buses. Spending on public transport has increased from about £1.3 million in 1997 to nearly £3 million today. In some villages in my constituency, those who were born in the war years could grow up, get a job, have children and grandchildren, and still be waiting for a bus. Now that my hon. Friend the Minister is responsible for such matters, there are buses in abundance in north Yorkshire. For example, the connexions route, which passes through the villages of Oxton, Bolton Percy and Appleton Roebuck, connects Tadcaster with the Askham Bar park-and-ride link to York. In a good week, 500 people now use that service.

However, for local people such developments sometimes constitute something of a cultural shift. When asked whether they objected to the erection of a bus stop for a new service, the representatives of one parish council said, "We don't have those sorts of things here--it's not that sort of village." In fact, they are now very proud of their bus stop, but a little persuasion was necessary. When travelling on another enhanced bus service, I noticed that there were no bus stops in any of the villages. I asked the driver whether that caused a problem, and he replied, "No, because our regulars know where we go." Perhaps that is not the marketing that we want, but such services are making a difference.

One issue that calls for regional planning--and, ultimately, perhaps regional government--is public transport in Yorkshire and Humberside. Three bodies are involved: South Yorkshire passenger transport authority, West Yorkshire passenger transport authority and North Yorkshire county council. I have referred to the county council's £3 million budget, but in west Yorkshire the passenger transport authority spent £91 million, including a direct grant for rail services of £37 million. No such grant is available for north Yorkshire. Clearly, that has an impact on the fare structure and level of services in north Yorkshire, and I shall consider briefly how pensioners and commuters are affected.

My dad is lucky to be a pensioner in west Yorkshire. He leads a full and active life. He goes to the races, the theatre and the cinema, and watches Bradford City. He can travel anywhere off-peak for 20p, but in south Yorkshire, the off-peak fares for buses and trains are, I believe, 33p and 35p respectively. In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby, there are no concessions at all. In Selby, one receives £8 worth of bus tokens a year. That affects people's retirement decisions. For example, Tadcaster and Wetherby are two very similar market towns within a few miles of each other, and a similar distance from Leeds. A day return from Tadcaster to Leeds costs £3.50, for a pensioner or anyone else. The journey from Wetherby is 20p each way.

We welcome the half-fare bus passes that are to be introduced next year, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby referred. Nevertheless, it is important to have reciprocal arrangements between the different transport authorities. South Yorkshire and west Yorkshire have

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just done a deal whereby a pensioner can travel off-peak from one county to the other for 34p. West Yorkshire also recognises the bus passes of pensioners from Lancashire and Greater Manchester, so if my dad goes to Manchester, he can get exactly the same concessions as a Manchester pensioner, but no such reciprocal rights exist with north Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire is, at the moment, recognising Lancastrians but not certain fellow Yorkshire men and women. It is essential that, next year, reciprocal rights should be established across the whole of the county of Yorkshire. That should be our aim, so that west Yorkshire pensioners, for example, can get on a bus and buy a half-fare ticket all the way to Scarborough and the coast. That would be a boon to tourism.

A ridiculous situation can be found within my constituency. In York, half-fare bus passes are already available, but if a pensioner travels by bus across the border from the York council area to the Selby council area, a half fare would be available for only half the journey. Two constituents of mine, Mr. and Mrs. Eggleston, from Fulford in the York unitary authority area, regularly travel to Thorganby, a little village in the Selby area, to see their grandson. They are entitled to a half fare part of the way, to Wheldrake, but they have to pay the full fare for the rest of the journey. That is clearly crazy, and we need reciprocal arrangements. I urge the Government to bang a few heads together, if necessary, to encourage that process on its way.

I shall move on to commuters. Thousands of people commute from my area every day, especially into Leeds and other places in west Yorkshire. Although there are seven train stations in my constituency, many of those people get into their cars, go over the border into west Yorkshire and get on exactly the same trains that pass through my constituency, in order to save money. For example, a return ticket from Church Fenton--a village in my constituency--to Leeds costs £5.10 a day, but if one travels a few miles by car to catch the train at Micklefield, the fare goes down to £3.50. A couple commuting into Leeds every working day could save about £60 a month by taking that short car journey, which is obviously environmentally daft.

The matter needs attention, and is likely to become an even bigger issue in relation to the new rail franchise map. As I understand it, the trans-Pennine link is to be a separate franchise, and all the suburban services are to be franchised as a whole across the northern region, but with an insistence that they be managed in line with the boundaries of the passenger transport authority. We would not want to lose out in north Yorkshire because, although we have all those stations, there is no passenger transport authority.

There is a strong feeling in my constituency of Selby that we should benefit from greater links with the West Yorkshire passenger transport authority, which is allowed by law, incidentally, to organise services 25 miles from its boundary. I hope that we can reach the stage where we have one passenger transport authority planning services across the whole Yorkshire region.

I support another comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby: it is extremely important--for my constituents, as well--that we incorporate the rail link with the Leeds-

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Bradford airport. That scheme shows how progressive and innovative the West Yorkshire passenger transport authority is. Not only is it applying for the rail link, but it was the first authority in the country to organise late night buses to get people home from Leeds, which boasts that it is a 24-hour city. Buses run at weekends until 2.30 in the morning. It is, therefore, a very progressive transport authority and we should like to see some of its influence in north Yorkshire.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I want to call the hon. Members for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Hamilton) and for Leeds, North-West (Mr. Best). If they will make very brief contributions, I shall be happy to call them both.

10.29 am

Mr. Fabian Hamilton (Leeds, North-East): Last Friday, the headline "Supertrams are go" in the Yorkshire Evening Post was an echo of the old "Thunderbirds" programme. I hope that the supertrams will be better than the old puppet television series.

From 1985 to 1995, 11,000 new jobs were created in Leeds and 11,000 new commuters came into the city during that period. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on introducing the debate. He said that Leeds is one of the economic engines of the region and there is no doubt that it is the main employment area and the economic generator of west Yorkshire. However, Leeds is grinding to a halt and I am delighted that, after 10 years of trying to obtain a tram system, we have the go-ahead at last.

It is not just the trams that we must concentrate on. As my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) and other hon. Members said, buses are crucial. In the 1970s and 1980s, Sheffield had a wonderful bus system and I remember travelling across the city for 2p in those good old days. Buses are the key to transporting people, but they are not the only method of transport. The guided bus service in my constituency is one method of making buses more efficient and avoiding some of the traffic jams, but we also need a more efficient road system.

I was pleased to hear that the east Leeds radial road will be built under the 10-year transport plan, but I hope that the Minister will support phase 8 of Leeds inner ring road because that will complete the ring. [Interruption.] I thank him for offering me the money already. Phase 8 is the final piece of the jigsaw to complete the ring road.

I was delighted to hear that Delhi is building its own underground and light rail system, but I want Leeds to be ahead of Delhi. Why can we not consider a light rail network, which would serve not only people in Leeds, but those who come to Leeds to work from surrounding districts--Bradford, Harrogate, Scarborough, Whitby, Selby, York and places further south such as Wakefield and Doncaster? Why can we not be adventurous and visionary and have a system that not only echoes what Delhi is doing, but is considerably better and serves the whole population of the area?

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I am a recent convert to cycling and I take my life in my hands whenever I cycle through central London to get here more quickly than the traffic and even the tube. I would like more cycle routes. One of my constituents, Mrs. Hazel Maxwell, is interested in cycling, especially for children, and sent me an e-mail yesterday stating that more safe cycling routes were missing from the 10-year plan, or least the publicity about it. Will the Minister respond to that?

I support the points that have been made about the pressure for a rail link to Leeds-Bradford airport, including many of those made by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) about Finningley, but I do not want to enter that debate now. I want Leeds-Bradford airport to have better access by rail and other public transport from Leeds and Bradford. I should like the Minister to tell us exactly what is happening about that. A rail link from central Leeds would link up with the rail network to south Yorkshire, so it would also improve the links there.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : We now have two minutes left for the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West.

10.34 am

Mr. Harold Best (Leeds, North-West): Most of the points that I wanted to make have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Hamilton) and I shall not repeat them. I want to emphasise the need to make use of existing wide-gauge rail systems. The engineering skills of our Victorian forefathers survive today. We should take advantage of that amazing infrastructure. Along with other hon. Members, I have referred to one such link: Leeds-Bradford airport, which is just half a mile away from a major rail link. That railway line goes on into east and north-east Yorkshire, passing through stations that were closed by a certain person some 30 or 40 years ago. We want to see one of those stations reopened, providing ease of access to the airport for people who are currently using their cars and clogging up small country lanes. Such a rail link would make a contribution to green transport.

I see from the clock that I have had my two minutes. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak.

10.36 am

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam): I shall try to speak at a rapid south Yorkshire pace, in order to get through the points that I want to make. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) secured this debate. We have a chance to show how united we are in south Yorkshire on the issues and, perhaps, to highlight those areas in which we are still groping for agreement.

The hon. Member for Barnsley, Central was right to raise the issue of match funding for objective 1 programmes in the context of transport. We need to raise that matter on every available occasion. The Government have said that they are willing to find the match funding, but they need to be able to remove the obstacles in the way of that, of which we are all aware. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) did not disappoint: she put the case for Finningley, as I suspected she would. I shall not disappoint either: I want

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to raise local concerns about Sheffield airport. It may be a different beast from the proposed airport at Finningley, but it does create employment in Sheffield. No one disputes that the volume of air traffic is growing, and I do not intend to start a detailed debate about that. None the less, a public inquiry is necessary, because of the wider regional issues involved. That is the only way to get the necessary assurances and bring everyone on board; otherwise, there will be a continuing grumbling dispute in the region. Finningley will develop in that context, but it is important that we start from the right point. The hon. Member for Don Valley explained how long term the proposals for development of the airport are, so we should not be concerned about delays at this stage because of a wider inquiry. I hope that we can have that inquiry now.

Caroline Flint : Is the hon. Gentleman giving the official position of the Liberal Democrats on the issue of a public inquiry?

Mr. Allan : I speak as a Member of Parliament for Sheffield. Since I am the only Liberal Democrat Member in the area--south Yorkshire--my position is as official as we need.

The hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Hamilton) showed his youthfulness, by saying that he travelled for 2p. I did too; that was the child fare. I had not realised that the hon. Gentleman was eligible for that fare at that time. Bus transport is a key issue. There is disappointment, especially in Sheffield, that it is still so difficult to get to grips with the bus operators and that there are no major powers to do so. Routes in my constituency have been changed and the PTA has been unable to do anything. Fares are still a major issue. Price is the key determinant for an individual in deciding whether to stand at the bus stop or take the car on a rainy day. If there were a cheap fare, as there used to be, people would choose to take the bus; with the fares that they have to pay now, they will not. I hope that there will be some prospect of passenger transport authorities having more direct control over routes and fares. They used to have such control, but it was removed by deregulation, and no adequate new system has yet been devised by the Government.

The hon. Member for Leeds, North-East said that "Supertrams are go" was a headline in his local paper. Is he going to steal our supertram? We have a functioning supertram, but it does not go to the right places in some areas, and that has been a problem. There will be proposals for extensions. I hope that the Minister will say whether the Government will be favourable towards those who wish to extend existing schemes as well as to those who wish to bid for new schemes. Extensions of the tram network on which so much Government money has been invested could be helpful, especially in the university and hospital areas.

I favour moving quarry traffic on to the railway system. Sheffield has no ring road and quarry vehicles, from Derbyshire in particular, drive through it. Indeed, they go past my office, so I am very conscious of the traffic. I hope that the Government agree that more quarry traffic should use the rail system and that they are willing to invest in EWS infrastructure to enable that to take place. Motor cycles are a good replacement for car traffic, especially for commuters. At present, in order for

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them to use bus lanes, a special request must be submitted to the regional office for dispensation because there are no approved signs for such traffic movement. Such a system seems very bureaucratic and I hope that the Minister can explain his thoughts about using motor cycles as a way in which to combat congestion in the region. Can anything be done to make it easier for local authorities to enable that to happen if they so choose? I could raise plenty of other issues, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am conscious of the time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

10.41 am

Mr. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham): This morning's debate has been fascinating and I congratulate the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on introducing it. We have been on a Cook's tour of villages, A roads, trunk roads, railways, those villages that do not want bus stops in the Yorkshire region and ended up in Delhi. That shows the diversity of the Yorkshire and Humberside region. I know it well from my time as a candidate in Sheffield in the early 1990s and as someone whose family comes from the Beverley area.

I agree with many of points made by the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central about the general economy. He referred to the energy tax. Now is not the time to go into such matters in detail, but I underline the impact that that is having on large manufacturing industries, especially the glass and chemical industries in south Yorkshire. Having stood as a parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Sheffield, Brightside, I agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments about the congestion at junction 34 of the M1, an area that I know particularly well. I also have experience of the traffic jams on the A64 on the way to Scarborough. I represent a seaside town, and the hon. Gentleman should visit the A27 and experience the difficulties of travelling to seaside resorts in my part of the country.

The hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) expressed a detailed knowledge of aircraft movement and I shall touch on the matter of Finningley later. I congratulate the hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) on his contribution to the debate or, more particularly, his father who seems to be one of the more mobile senior citizens in the Yorkshire region. The hon. Gentleman highlighted the absurdity of what he described as environmentally daft anomalies in transport policy. As for the hon. Members for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Hamilton) and for Leeds, North-West (Mr. Best), what can I say?

The Yorkshire and Humberside region is a diverse area. It has 5 million people. It is the same size as Scotland or Denmark. Its work force comprises 2.3 million people with an economy of £52 billion. It has nine universities and 40 colleges, and 118 plcs have their headquarters in the region. Outside south-east England, it has one of the highest proportions of small and medium companies.

As we have heard, the region has many problems. It is on the wrong side of the north-south divide and, as the recent Cardiff university study showed, the Government's policy is widening regional economic

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disparities in England and Wales rather than narrowing them. Moves to assist business developments are improving the performance of the most competitive regions, not the poorest ones such as Yorkshire and Humberside. The region is near the bottom of the rankings in the United Kingdom for competitiveness. It is on a par with the economies of Hungary, Chile and Israel. The welcome success of securing objective 1 status from the European Union underlines the fact that south Yorkshire is one of the poorest regions of the European Union. The hon. Member for Barnsley, Central confirmed that the figure for the region was 74 per cent. below the European Union average.

As we have heard, there are also big disparities in Yorkshire, which has its own north-south divide. The northern end of Yorkshire and parts of west Yorkshire are far ahead of south Yorkshire in the commercial exploitation of IT-based technology. GDP per head in south Yorkshire has fallen substantially over the past 20 years. Conversely, we have problems of overheating in Leeds, one of the most prosperous parts of the north of England. I understand that several bosses of electronics companies in Yorkshire recently approached Yorkshire Forward and said, in effect, "For goodness sake, stop attracting South Korean electronic companies to the region because we simply do not have the skilled work force for our own companies, let alone for employers coming in." There are real problems in that regard.

Transport will undoubtedly aid the resolution of such economic disparities. It is an anomaly that no transport role was given to regional development agencies in the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998. It is not part of their remit. RDAs constantly complain that they do not have a direct input into the transport infrastructure, which is such an essential part of the economic regeneration of regions such as Yorkshire and Humberside. I know from my conversations with the people who run the Sheffield development corporation that one of the key elements of the success of the urban development corporations in the 1980s and 1990s was the provision of a good transport infrastructure, such as links to the M1 in the case of Sheffield, that went way beyond some of the accompanying tax advantages. A SWOT--strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats--analysis by Yorkshire Forward of the transport problems in the region, which several hon. Members touched on, highlighted the poor rail links between London and Sheffield, London and Hull, Sheffield and Leeds, Leeds and Manchester, and traffic congestion on the M1 and M62 and in key cities.

Will the Minister give us some detail on what last week's 10-year transport splurge will mean for Yorkshire and Humberside? His wallet is certainly under great pressure, with all the schemes that hon. Members assume have been paid for. Perhaps he can allay their fears and give them the good news that they anticipate. The website of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions identifies the need to upgrade the A1 to motorway standard, particularly the key bottlenecks in the south of the region. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), who would have liked to attend our debate but is sitting on the Transport Select Committee, has particular problems with the section of road

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between Bramham and Barton. She is also concerned about the high level of traffic accidents and road fatalities in the region, which the hon. Member for Don Valley mentioned.

There is also the issue of improvement of roads to the Humber ports, particularly Hull. Would the Minister, in the absence of his boss, comment on that? Would he also comment on the potential effect of VAT on river crossings and the bridges across the Humber? What about the Government's commitment to the dualling of the A66? Will any of the 100 promised bypasses be in the Yorkshire and Humberside region? Will my hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Townend) get a bypass for Middleton-on-the-Wolds, to take the pressure of the lorries from Bridlington and Driffield?

The Secretary of State wants to shift movements between car and rail by 5 per cent. and contain car traffic at 1999 levels. That has a serious impact for north Yorkshire, in particular, a large rural area that has already been hit heavily and disproportionately by petrol prices. Can the Minister assure us that improvements will be made to bus services in the rural area of north Yorkshire rather than just concentrating on the towns? The submission of North Yorkshire county council to the Environment Committee report on the urban White Paper made interesting reading in terms of the consultation on rural bus services from market towns and the surrounding communities. Will the Minister allow county councils proper time for consultation with their parishes rather than bringing forward the cut-off date, as previously happened with North Yorkshire?

There is also the question of road repair. The Government have not made money available on necessary funding for local authorities to maintain their road networks. Sheffield, for example, currently has a backlog of repairs well in excess of £20 million. It seems absurd to give money to councils for bus lanes and cycle lanes if the roads are falling apart.

I do not have time to mention in detail the re-franchising of the east coast main line fiasco--no doubt the Minister would like to update us on it--the empty promise of the channel tunnel rail link to Leeds, and the incentives for the improvement of the trans-Pennine rail link. I shall not talk about the Finningley airport at Doncaster either, although the Minister might like to reply to the hon. Member for Don Valley.

The hon. Member for Barnsley, Central mentioned that the Government 10-year plan, and the extra money from it, would bring great hope to his region. It is up to the Minister today to give proper hope to people that some of the schemes will actually happen. Undoubtedly, the region is in great need of transport infrastructure improvements. I hope that the Minister will deliver for Yorkshire and Humberside, and start to do so by giving details now.

10.50 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill ): This has been a lively debate. There have been eight speakers in the brief period of an hour and 20 minutes. We have learned a great deal about the region and the transport needs of some of its constituencies, about which my hon. Friends and other hon. Members

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have shown commendable impartiality. I was also touched by the passion demonstrated for the region by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Mr. Loughton), whose constituency is on somewhat distant shores from it.

I have been asked a huge number of questions, and I shall try to answer as many as possible. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on securing the debate. This is a significant and exciting time for transport in this country. Last week, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister unveiled the Government's 10-year transport plan, which is known as Transport 2010. Our goal is to transform our transport system over the next 10 years, tackling congestion and pollution, increasing choice and raising standards to make travel safer, more attractive and accessible to all.

Transport 2010 provides an investment of £180 billion, delivered through partnership between the private and public sectors. Before the plan, congestion on our roads was set to grow by 15 per cent. over the next 10 years. Our target set out in the 10-year plan is to reverse that trend by removing traffic bottlenecks and improving public transport, so that people have a real choice to leave their cars at home. The environment is important to us all, and our proposals will produce savings in greenhouse gas emissions, helping to achieve our Kyoto targets and more.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central was right to point to the importance that the Government attach to the region in our recently published 10-year transport plan. We recognise that the Yorkshire and Humber region is at the centre of key north-south and east-west road and rail corridors. The Humber ports represent an important regional asset and I am aware that improved road and rail links are a regional priority. We recognise the fact that areas in the region also suffer from a disproportionately high number of worn-out roads, and Transport 2010 will rectify that. The main towns and cities in the region suffer from increasing congestion, which must be tackled to foster regeneration, improve the environment and encourage urban renaissance. There are also many rural areas in the region, and improved public transport is needed to reduce car dependency and tackle social exclusion.

Transport 2010 provides the funding to transform the transport system in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Individual projects will be determined through the funding programmes of the Highways Agency, the Strategic Rail Authority, and as part of the local transport plan settlement later in the year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central mentioned the objective 1 issue and the question of matched funding for European structural funds. The responsibility for the acquisition of match funding falls to the project applicants, and it is for the local partners preparing the single programming documents to assess the likely availability of match funding when establishing their financial plans. We envisage that local transport capital funds could be used as a source of match funding. The spending review statement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer means that there is now more funding available to which

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local partners can look for match funding. That is obviously good news for areas with EU structural funds in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central also referred to the need for improvement in the region's rail networks. Railways are an important part of the transport infrastructure in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Transport 2010 will allow exciting public-private partnerships to implement much needed investment in this area. For example, the east coast main line upgrade will provide increased rail capacity to the region and the potential for half-hourly services to Leeds and York from London. That will build on the £165 million Leeds station scheme currently under way. As my hon. Friend also said, the trans-Pennine rail routes are important to the region, and improvements can be expected to be agreed as part of the new trans-Pennine express franchise. There are proposals to improve the rail capacity and environment of Sheffield station, creating a more integrated transport facility for the city. Once again it is pleasing to see the public-private partnership at work in promoting these schemes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Quinn) drew attention to the problems of the A64. I note his call for a multi-modal study of that road but, in the meantime, further consultation is proposed this year to help consider options for improvements to Barton Hill junction, Whitwell on the Hill junction, the Whitwell dual to Malton bypass and Rillington bypass, which are all on the A64. He will be aware that there is already excellent news for Scarborough, in the Scarborough integrated transport scheme, on which local officials and my officials have been working together. Enormous progress has been made on that project in the past six months.

My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) made a well-informed and powerful statement in favour of the development of Finningley airport. The proposed new commercial airport at Finningley, near Doncaster, is of considerable interest to people throughout the Yorkshire and Humber region, as is inevitable with such a significant proposal. We expect the local planning authority to refer the application to the Secretary of State in the autumn, who must then decide whether to call in the application for his own determination. It would be quite wrong for me to make any comment that could be perceived as either supporting or opposing the scheme. I can confirm that the current regional air services co-ordination study--RASCO--will not delay the process. I am sure that my hon. Friend will understand, therefore, if I say no more about it at this stage.

My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley made a general case for all the airports in Yorkshire. For the sake of a similar balance, I should say that I am powerfully aware of the strong campaign for improved surface access to Leeds-Bradford airport. I have received delegations on the subject and know that consideration is being given to how the airport could be accessed from the Leeds-Harrogate line mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Mr. Best). However, any proposals would have to meet the normal requirements of value for money appraisal and planning powers, and satisfactory funding arrangements agreed with the authorities.

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I turn to the good news story about the rural bus boom, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan). Our rural bus initiative has been a fantastic success throughout the country in the past three years. In that period, we have generated 1,845 new and enhanced bus services. The 10-year transport plan will increase funding next year for the rural bus initiative from £60 million to £95 million, from which I am sure that my hon. Friend's constituency will benefit. That represents a commitment to the countryside by this Government, which was never contemplated by the Conservative party, although it so often proclaims itself the defender of rural areas.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Selby for his positive remarks about the national minimum concessionary fare scheme. The provisions in the Transport Bill will benefit 7 million senior citizens, not least the many deprived of any form of discounted fare by the Tory Scrooge local authorities throughout the country. I take his point about inter-ticketing arrangements, which have been built into the Transport Bill. We have discussed and reached agreement on it with the Office of Fair Trading. It will create a presumption in favour of such inter-ticketing arrangements.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Hamilton) mentioned the Leeds supertram, on which we are making progress. I am pleased to say that Transport 2010 includes billions of pounds for public and private investment for such light rail schemes. As we have said, we envisage up to 25 new light rail schemes in the 10-year period. I am aware of the increasing success--

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. Time is up.

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