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Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman and his comments about Conservative policy. He talked about the Yorkshire box and the work that began in 1997. Will he not pay tribute to the last Conservative Government for making it possible to create that box?
Lawrie Quinn: I pay tribute to any Government who respond to the agenda of the region. That is why I have made great play of all political parties listening to practitioners. Regrettably, for a vital scheme of regional and national significance, there were many schemes that were not delivered by the Administration that the hon. Gentleman supported. Many schemes were consigned to the dustbin of historythe wish list of transport policy, as I would call it.
It behoves all Members to make a proper assessment of the requirements of transport policy. We must not just propose schemeswe must ensure that the resources are available to support them. The central failure of the economic policy of the previous Administration prevented transport policy from moving forward. If the hon. Member for South Suffolk had been allowed to develop his argument further, he would also have come to the conclusion that the main problems for the development of transport policy, as I experienced during my professional career, arose from the boom-bust, stop-go approach. We need a national settlement, a strategic view and a long-term agenda, as proposed by members of my institution over at Great George street. I hope to see the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) there and I will gladly introduce him to his constituents there, who support the proposition that I am advancing. The ideas proposed by the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer do not come close to responding to a national agenda, which is extremely important.
I shall deal briefly with airport strategy in the region of Yorkshire and the Humber. Earlier in the debate reference was made to Finningley. Regrettably, the spokesperson for the Conservative party did not seem to know much about Finningley or what it was. Air journey possibilities from outside the region need to be developed. Partly because of the excellent TransPennine railway connection from Scarborough to Manchester airport, 85 per cent. of air journeys undertaken by my constituents probably start from Manchester airport, rather than from an airport in the Yorkshire region that is a shorter trip away. Finningley offers great
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possibilities not only for business and leisure travellers, but for air freight services. I look forward to a rail link into that airport near Doncaster.
Finally, I was pleased to hear the comments about coastal traffic, coming as I do from an area with a long maritime tradition. I say that with no humility, because my constituents would never forgive me if I did, given the art of navigation, the legacy of Captain Cook and the legacy of maritime skills that originated and developed in Whitby, which has a long naval heritage. The potential for that small port to make an effective contribution in the way suggested by the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is tremendous, but to bring that about investment would be needed in the land links into the port.
I should be delighted to speak to my hon. Friend the Minister, probably at some length, about the possibility of supplying an eight-mile missing link between Pickering and Rillington junction near Malton, which would afford access par excellence from the port of Whitby to the east coast main line and avoid the long journey around. That would be particularly useful for freight traffic and would revitalise the port of Whitby and make a major contribution to the strategy mentioned by the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross to reinvigorate coastal traffic. That would be a worthwhile project and my colleagues from the Institution of Civil Engineers would undoubtedly support it.
On road and transport safety, it is well known to the House that one of the challenges of representing a part of the country containing a national park is that there is a higher than average number of accidents caused by motorcyclists. The so-called boy racer has moved on, and people of my age or even older who have a large disposable income power through the North Yorkshire countryside on a Harley-Davidson or whatever. Regrettably, there is a higher proportion of accidents in my constituency than elsewhere in the countryside.
I was interested to note that the Yorkshire Post today highlights the fact that the roads of the Yorkshire region are a blackspot for motorcycle accidents. That is based on a new report from the AA Motoring Trust, which found that four roads in the region are blackspots for motorcycle accidents. I raised the issue earlier this month with the Minister of State, Department of Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton).
It is incumbent on my hon. Friend the Minister to tell us about the work that is going on between the Department for Transport and health bodies to improve rider behaviour on our roads. That has a great impact on accident and emergency services and on transport and leads to loss of life. I urge him to tell the House what work is in progress to improve the behaviour of motorcyclists not only in my constituency, but throughout the country. A better information service is needed, because prevention is better than cure. The fatalities that unfortunately occur on our roads are a price too high to pay.
In conclusion, I commend the Government on what has been achieved so far to provide continuity in transport policy and a long-term approach, not a short-term fix. It is part of the Government's overall approach to use the benefits of a stronger economy to deliver. I
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know that my constituents and the people who work in the construction industry, some of whom hon. Members might have the opportunity to speak to later today, will tell them that bridge builders believe in building bridges and setting foundations for the future. I believe that the Government's policy does that, and that is the way forward for transport in this country.
Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): The Institution of Civil Engineers is an historic, estimable and professional organisation, and it is fortunate to have the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn) as its Member. The ICE will be well pleased with his contribution to the debate, although given the rosy picture that he painted on its behalf, it may be confused by the fact that he represents 50 per cent. of the total Labour Back-Bench force. Two Labour Members came to defend and commend the Government. If, on the other hand, he had claimed to represent one of the best purveyors of fish and chips in the country, he would have carried both sides of the House.
If one looks across the range of Government policy, transport is the best example of where old Labour and new Labour collide. The Government have lost the plot on transport, but they did so primarily in their first Parliament. I well remember the days when it was my privilege to stand at the Government Dispatch Box and the right hon. Member for Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who is now Deputy Prime Minister, frothed at me from the Opposition Dispatch Box, shouting that privatisation of the railways was wrong. When I told him that I believed that, after 40 years of annual decreases in the number of people using the railways, privatisation would mean significant increases in passenger numbers and more investment that would lead to new trains, he frothed and fumed and vehemently denied it; but of course that is exactly what happened. He made the big mistake of being so emotionally antagonistic to the developing railway system that he could not form objective judgments, so he focused the debate on punctuality, which, although important to passengers, is not as important if it is the exclusive focus, as it was in his case. As a result, issues relating to safety and maintenance got set to one side.
The right hon. Gentleman also fulminated against roads. The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby was right to say that it is traditional for Governmentsnot just the last Conservative Government, for his informationto have a long list of roads that it would be good to build. I can lay claim to being the first Secretary of State to decide to inject a degree of rationality into that list, which was so long under both Governments that some people would have had to wait 30 or 40 years to see their particular road. That did not seem sensible, and I tried to reduce the list to a size that would be deliverable within a reasonable time frame. In describing it as a wish list, the hon. Gentleman condemns his own Ministers. We initiated a change of policy that said, "It would be good to build all these roads, but let's at least have a list that is likely to be deliverable in the foreseeable future."
As the Government's first Transport Secretary, the right hon. Member for Hull, East brought to Government the antagonism to roads that he had honed
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on me and my right hon. Friends and, as it says in the eighth report of the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions, slashed all the road building programmes. On 6 June 1997, he said:
"I will have failed if in five years' time there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car. It's a tall order, but I urge you to hold me to it."
That is like everything else that Ministers say: it is all spin. He did not mean it, he did not deliver it, he never could deliver it, he was not capable of forming a coherent policy that might be the basis for delivering it and he still rides around in his two Jaguars having failed by his own account, but not in the least embarrassed by it.
Although it is never a good career move for an Opposition Back Bencher to be mildly supportive of and sorry for the current incumbent of any Cabinet job, the blame for the fact that the Government's transport policy is a mess lies primarily not with the current Secretary of State, but with his two predecessors. I commend himagain, not a good career movefor having talked about reinstating a road-building programme. That takes him back, as the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby will note, precisely to where we left off in 1997: we have lost seven years in the process. I am pleased to see the Secretary of State in his place. His two predecessorsI shall come to the other one in a momentdid their best to screw up transport policy because they were not comfortable with trying to bring it into the 21st century and he now has to make decisions that are driven less by their political ideology, and in some cases emotional distaste, than by the need to realign Government policy with the realities of today.
One problem that the Secretary of State facesI hope that his successor, whom I believe will be my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo), will address itis the need radically to speed up the roads programme. I was the Secretary of State who made the decision to widen the M25 between the M4 and the M3 as part of the Government's submission to the fifth terminal inquiry. That work is only just starting. I was the Secretary of State who made the decision, in the context of speeding the cross-Channel rail link, to put the terminal at St. Pancras. That work is only just starting.
I say to the Secretary of State that if we are to modernise the roads programmehe has said that he wants to do so, as would any sensible person, particularly a former Transport Ministerwe need to have a radical look at the public inquiry arrangements and decision-making processes that relate to road building because they are so antiquated that nobody could even put a date on them. I have some ideas of my own about how that might be achieved while still defending the democratic process and I am happy to share them with anybody who is interested, though not in today's debate.
I want to say a few words about rail. The right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) characteristically made his early comment and dashed for the door. In this case, it was: "Wasn't the rail privatisation process awful?" or words to that effect. I was not the Secretary of State who devised that policy or carried it through the House, but I moved it forward to completion and the increased passenger numbers and
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investment that we see today. It tends to be forgotten that other countries looked at how we privatised our railways and followed our example.
I find it sad that these days we spend too much time talking about the process instead of the passengers whom the process was designed to benefit. I chide the Secretary of State ever so slightly for his recent decision on fares. One of my most cherished memories of government is the Cabinet sub-committee meeting in which the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and I debated my proposal to move to a retail prices index minus 1 regime for 70 per cent. of fares. Hon. Members who know the previous Chancellor will understand when I say that it was a robust conversation. However, we agreed the policy. We did that because, as I said at the time, it ought to be made clear that passengers should get and be seen to get some benefit from privatisation. It was a signal that we were in favour of the railways. It was also, given that we had an RPI plus policy on roads, an indication of how we wished people to behave. I regret that that signal has been removed and that fares will increase, perhaps sharply, when the Government's rhetoric is about trying to get more people to use the railways.
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