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Mike Penning: The hon. Gentleman, a Minister in the previous Government and a former firefighter, is well aware of how speed cameras can protect the public. As a former firefighter myself, I know that speed has been part of the reason for many road traffic accidents, but not the sole reason for them. The growth of speed cameras has been so great that the public are concerned
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about whether they are there for safety or to raise money for the Treasury. The Government will not put any more money in; if local authorities want to do so, that is okay. Intermittent and average speed cameras are in use, particularly on motorways, and are an excellent way of easing congestion on our motorways.

Topical Questions

T1. [2731] Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): The Government's first priority is reducing the budget deficit left us by the previous Administration, and I am determined that the Department for Transport should play its full part in that process. Against that backdrop, my Department is focused on building a modern and sustainable transport system that will contribute both to future economic growth and to the achievement of the Government's climate change targets.

Fiona Mactaggart: When does the Secretary of State expect to receive Lord Mawhinney's report on Heathrow high-speed rail access? When he receives it, will he consult Slough, whose prosperity depends completely on its proximity to Heathrow?

Mr Hammond: I have asked Lord Mawhinney to let us have his preliminary conclusions by the end of July, and I will be happy to consult the hon. Lady's local authority once I have received that report from him.

T3. [2733] Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): As Ministers work out how best to transfer travel from plane to train, where that is possible, will they prioritise talks with European colleagues to make sure that the European rail network works and with colleagues in this country to make sure that high-speed rail will allow people to go through the capital without having to change trains?

Mr Hammond: I thank my hon. Friend, who makes a very important point. Now that we have made it clear that there will be no third runway at Heathrow airport, modal shift from air to rail becomes crucially important, including for journeys through to Europe. I have asked HS2 Ltd to look at the options and the costs of providing a direct link from the proposed HS2 to the existing high-speed rail network to the Channel tunnel.

T2. [2732] Mr Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) (Lab): I cannot stress enough the importance of the Tyne and Wear metro to the people of the north-east-in respect of the economy, the environment and the general quality of life. The previous Government pledged £350 million to upgrade the scheme, so will the Minister acknowledge the importance of the Tyne and Wear metro and tell us whether he is going to honour that pledge?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I do acknowledge the importance of the Tyne and Wear metro, just as I acknowledge the difficult financial position the Government are in. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman wait for the Treasury statement later this morning.

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Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): My constituents do not want the pollution that additional runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick would entail, but they do want shorter queues, fewer delays and better service. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are plenty of ways of achieving that through improving operations at those airports?

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers): I very much agree with my hon. Friend. That is why the Secretary of State has established a taskforce to look into the ways we can make good on our promise to make Heathrow better. We have rejected a third runway because of the huge environmental damage it would cause, but there is more we can do to improve the regulatory structure and we are bringing forward legislation on that to incentivise the airports to focus on the quality of service for passengers. We need to keep security measures under review so that passengers are kept safe and we can mitigate the hassle that those measures cause. We need to work with the stakeholders and the airlines to get the right solution to integrate high-speed rail with Heathrow, to provide a viable alternative to having many short-haul flights and to relieve overcrowding problems at the airport.

T5. [2737] John Robertson (Glasgow North West) (Lab): What is happening about the sell-off of BAA, its monopoly-particularly north of the border-and the imposition on passengers, especially in Glasgow, of charges for being picked up after their holiday flights, and the requirement to walk for an exorbitant distance? It is an absolute disgrace, and it is time that such companies were brought to book and made to compete.

Mrs Villiers: The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to a consumer issue which, I know, greatly concerns his constituents and many other users of that airport. It is just the type of issue that we hope our new airport regulation Bill will address. We intend to give airports stronger incentives to look after and respond to their customers.

The proceedings of the Competition Commission in relation to the ownership of various airports around the country are a matter for the commission, but we have often highlighted the benefits that diversity of ownership in the United Kingdom airport sector can yield to customers.

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con): Is the Minister aware that Arriva buses recently introduced a completely new network and timetable in Milton Keynes? At a public meeting last Friday many of my constituents, especially pensioners, told me that they had been greatly inconvenienced by the changes, and that they had not been properly consulted. Will the Minister do all that he can to ensure that operators consult their passengers properly before introducing such radical changes?

Norman Baker: My hon. Friend makes a good point. We ought to ensure that bus companies work with the grain of local people's interests. We are considering the period within which bus companies must give notification of new timetables.

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Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): Will the Minister reassure us that in considering any spending review relating to funds for the Tyne and Wear metro, he will take account of the need to preserve an existing structure which-unlike many other capital projects-is more than 30 years old, desperately requires reinvigoration, and is vital to the community in Newcastle and throughout the north-east?

Norman Baker: As I said a moment ago to the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr Hepburn), we understand the importance of the Tyne and Wear metro to the area. I suggest that the hon. Lady wait for the statement that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will make later this morning.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): May I urge the Secretary of State to accept the recommendations of the North review and, as a matter of urgency, present proposals for a reduction in the drink-drive limit from 80 to 50 mg?

Mr Philip Hammond: Sir Peter North has delivered a comprehensive report, containing 51 recommendations, on issues relating to driving under the influence of drink or drugs. The Government will consult other Departments on the implications of the recommendations, and we will announce our position in due course.

Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): In April, when Jarvis was placed in administration, Network Rail cancelled millions of pounds of track renewal contracts on the east coast main line. We have recently been reminded of the Potters Bar rail accident. That track renewal work must go ahead. Will the Minister arrange for me to meet Iain Coucher-along with Members representing other constituencies where many workers have been made redundant as a result of the cuts-so that we can discuss with him the timetable for reinstating the track renewal contracts with other companies?

Mr Hammond: The Office of Rail Regulation is responsible for ensuring that the railway is managed safely, and that works that are required for its safety go ahead. The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that shortly before Question Time, Network Rail announced that Iain Coucher would be stepping down from his role. For that reason it would not be practical for me to arrange a meeting with him, but I should be happy to try to facilitate a meeting with another appropriate representative of Network Rail.

Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) (Con): Will the Secretary of State confirm that he will protect runway alternation at Heathrow?

Mrs Villiers: I can give that confirmation. We support the current protections of runway alternation. We defeated Labour's proposals for mixed mode when we were in opposition, and we will not revive them now that we are in government.

Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab): Does the new, post-bureaucratic age of transparency extend to a commitment to publish bus and rail timetables in digital format for open public reuse?

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Mrs Villiers: We are looking at that issue at the moment. I think there are considerable benefits to be gained from a more open approach to timetabling, and I would be delighted to have a discussion with the hon. Gentleman if he wants to give me further indications of his ideas on this, so that we can ensure we get the maximum benefits for passengers.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Vehicle excise duty remains unpaid on 2 million vehicles, 80% of which are uninsured and 70% of which are owned by people with criminal convictions. Given that these vehicles kill 160 people a year and injure 23,000, may we have a crackdown?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): My hon. Friend raises a very important point, but vehicle recognition technology is now moving forward. I have recently been in police vehicles where we have been able to pick up where other vehicles have not had MOTs and insurance, and I am asking the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on this, whom I met yesterday, to clamp down as hard as possible.

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): Brake, the road safety charity, has said that cutting Government funding for speed cameras will lead to blood on our roads. Why is the Minister cutting the funding for them, given that they would raise revenue during the forthcoming age of austerity, and how is Wakefield council supposed to put new ones in when it has just had a £1 million cut to its road safety grant?

Mike Penning: Local authorities have the powers to spend the money as they wish, and if they wish to spend it on more speed cameras that is entirely within their remit. There are other ways in which lives can be saved. I have looked at what Brake says, but I disagree. Such cameras should not be a cash cow. This should not be determined by issues to do with raising tax. It should be about safety; that is the important thing.

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): May I welcome my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to his new position? Does he agree with me in principle that those people whose homes have been blighted by Labour's preferred route for high-speed rail should be fully compensated, rather than at the 85% of value as proposed by Labour?

Mr Philip Hammond: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. One of the first decisions I took in my new post was to extend the consultation on the exceptional hardship scheme. That consultation closes today and we will publish our conclusions in due course.

Women and Equalities

The Minister for Women and Equalities was asked-

Parliamentary Representation

1. Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab): What discussions she has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on constitutional reforms to increase the representation of women and ethnic minorities in Parliament. [2700]

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The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Women and Equalities (Mrs Theresa May): With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to notify the House that, given the cross-cutting nature of the women and equalities agenda, I may be joined on the Front Bench for future questions not only by the Minister for Equalities, but also by the Minister with responsibility for race equality, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell), who is present in the Chamber today, and by the Minister with responsibility for disabled people, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller) and the Minister with responsibility for pensions, the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Steve Webb), in order to allow Members to receive answers from the Minister with responsibility for the issue under discussion so that we can look at the wider equalities agenda.

On the question, I welcome the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds) to the House, and I am pleased to say that following the recent general election there are now more women and black and minority ethnic Members of Parliament in the House. I am particularly delighted that across the governing parties there are now 56 women MPs and 11 MPs from an ethnic minority background, but we do need to do more, and I will be talking to the Deputy Prime Minister to ensure that this issue is a matter of concern when we look at our constitutional reform agenda.

Emma Reynolds: I am proud to be one of the 81 Labour women MPs in the House, and it is clear that my party has done more than any other to increase the representation of women and ethnic minorities in this House, but progress is far too slow still. As part of the apparently far-reaching constitutional reform package, what will the Government do to make sure this House reflects the people we serve?

Mrs May: As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made clear in his speech of 19 May, our agenda for constitutional and political reform will be a power revolution because it will be a fundamental resettlement of the relationship between the state and the citizen, but it would be a mistake for anybody to assume that constitutional reform in itself can bring about an increased diversity of representation in this House. The first responsibility for ensuring diversity of representation rests with political parties, and with political parties taking action to ensure we have a greater diversity of candidates, and I am very proud to have been involved in the action that the Conservative party took to ensure we have a much greater diversity of Members of Parliament on our Benches.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): The Minister is absolutely right to say that constitutional reform is not the only way to improve representation within this House. Many suggestions were put forward in the excellent Speaker's Conference report, which this House considered in the last Parliament, such as a democracy diversity fund to help candidates to stand for election where there might otherwise be barriers, and reforms to this House. Will she be taking forward some of the recommendations in the Speaker's Conference report?

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Mrs May: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question and I pay tribute to her for the role that she played in the Speaker's Conference and to the work that was done by the Speaker's Conference. As she will be aware, the last Government responded to the report and we responded to it when we were in opposition. We will now consider how to take forward some of the proposals made by the Speaker's Conference- [ Interruption. ] Opposition Members should have a little patience. They are shouting "What?" and I am just about to tell them, if they wait. We have made an early commitment as part of our coalition agreement to introduce extra support, particularly for disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected representatives.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): The Home Secretary is absolutely right that there are now more Members from ethnic minorities in the House of Commons-26-than at any time in the history of this country. Sadly, the only party that does not have any ethnic minority MPs is, of course, the Liberal Democrats. The leader of the Liberal Democrats supported my private Member's Bill to allow all-ethnic minority shortlists. Would the Home Secretary support that Bill if I was to introduce it to the House? She is right-it is up to the political parties to make the changes.

Mrs May: In a sense, I think that the right hon. Gentleman has slightly contradicted himself by suggesting that legislation is the way forward rather than the encouragement of political parties. I am pleased that as part of the 26, we have 11 Conservative Members of Parliament from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, which is a significant increase at the last election. It is right that all political parties need to do more on this issue and that all political parties need to consider the processes that they are using to select their candidates. There is a role for us all in trying to go out there to ensure that people in black and minority ethnic communities see this place as somewhere that is for them, so that they want to come and represent constituencies in this House. That is a job that we can all do.

Parental Leave

2. Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): What recent discussions she has had on plans to reform arrangements for parental leave; and if she will make a statement. [2701]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Women and Equalities (Mrs Theresa May): I have had several discussions with Cabinet colleagues and these will continue. We are committed to encouraging the involvement of both parents from the earliest stages of pregnancy, including the promotion of a system of flexible parental leave. Indeed, as we speak my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister is making a speech on families and family policy in which he will confirm this commitment.

Julian Smith: May I urge my right hon. Friend to consider the needs of and challenges faced by small business employers as well as employees as she develops this legislation?

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