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Under this Government we have had to fight off privatisation and the closure of fire stations and ambulance stations. We want a guarantee that the NHS will not be privatised and that our 999 services will still be there. Finally, we must look to the future. The 400th anniversary of the pilgrim fathers is coming up, and there is Sherwood forest, which should be a new national park. There are new kinds of industry, so will the Government help us to develop them into the future?

6.32 pm

Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): I will be as brief as possible. First, the “State of the coalfields” report published in June highlights major issues in coal mining communities, not just the closure programmes, but problems that have been there for decade upon decade and particularly concern jobs and ill health. It is all to do with income. Although the Government were right to say that unemployment is decreasing in mining communities, pro rata it is not decreasing half as much as it has done in the healthier south-east of this economy. That issue must be addressed and is highlighted well in that report.

The first intervention made by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) was about who closed the coal mines in the last century, but it is a nonsense argument to say that Labour closed more mines between 1964 and 1974. The real question concerns who closed the coal mines, and when they closed, how much coal was imported into this country to replace it? Never under the Wilson Government did we bring coal into this country to replace coal lost as a result of the closure programme, which is what we had to do under the Thatcher Government. I came to the House in 1983, and I remember the coal miners’ strike—I have Orgreave in my constituency. I had left the coal industry fewer than 12 months before to come to this place, and I remember what happened.

I want to say two things. One concerns policing, and there are a lot of lessons to be learned from that. A national reporting centre was set up during the miners’ strike. Pro formas were handed out for police to charge people using effectively the same language. My constituency backed on to Nottinghamshire. People were prevented from leaving Yorkshire to go to Nottinghamshire, miles away from where there may have been a breach of the law. That was always going to be challenged, and it should have been challenged because the policing of the strike was wrong. In May 1984 the Police Federation condemned the use of pro forma charge sheets against miners.

Do not get me wrong: I and others in this Chamber criticised the police and the stone throwers. On several occasions I called for a public inquiry into the policing of the miners’ strike and I still believe we should have one now, because this should never happen again in our communities.

I hope we have learned from what happened at that time, which was revenge for 1974. I was a striking miner at that time and remember it well. I joined the Labour party in the February of that year.

The hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr Spencer) talked about regeneration and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, which is regenerating communities by giving

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grants to individual groups—a wonderful thing to do. The economic regeneration, like the advanced manufacturing plant that has been mentioned, began under the last Government through the regional development agency, which was abolished when this Government took office, and through objective 1 funding, because we were that poor that at the time we received European money. We should not forget that Europe did a lot to turn south Yorkshire round, although, as the report published in June this year showed, there is still a lot more to do on jobs and ill health in mining communities, which we have suffered for generations.

6.36 pm

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): It has been humbling to listen to comrades who were involved in the miners’ strike. I can confirm to my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr Hamilton) that I was indeed one of the women who was brought into the Labour movement—and very proud to be so.

I agree with everything that has been said about justice for communities, but I want to make a specific point about the plight of my coalfield community. The bottom line is that to this day the coal industry remains important to our local area. The open-cast companies have been responsible for the worst environmental disaster imaginable, with two companies being placed in administration in 2013. The immediate result was the loss of more than 300 jobs, but the massive scale of environmental devastation left in east Ayrshire soon became evident: an estimated 2,000 hectares of unrestored and disturbed land, with almost a quarter of the area having 22 voids, 16 of which are filled with water more than 50 metres deep, and often unstable cliffs.

Independent mining engineers have estimated restoration liabilities in line with the original planning permissions and approved restoration plans at £161 million—money that we do not have. The total amount available, if we are lucky, is only £28.6 million. An independent report by the council highlighted problems with its operations and with companies reneging on their responsibilities. That is why the communities that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) represent have been left devastated. Many failures, far too many to mention, are highlighted in the report. I strongly believe that, based on the findings of the report, there might be grounds for investigating the conduct of the directors of the coal operators, and I have raised this with the investigations and enforcement services of the Insolvency Service.

This remains a bruising experience for the communities of east Ayrshire and I have raised my concerns over the environmental devastation and lack of accountability numerous times and will continue to do so. I have raised this on the Floor of the House with previous Ministers and with this Minister. I look forward to the response. I know that in the past few days the leader of East Ayrshire council has raised it again with the Department. Responsibility is shared between the UK Government and the Scottish Government, but so far we have got absolutely no change from either.

I am a member of a coal taskforce—a cross-party initiative—that works closely with the communities. It is true that we have made some progress but, at the end of the day, we need funds to further the restoration.

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Hargreaves, a new company, has taken over some of the mines, but there is no way it will deal with the whole issue. I ask for a response from the Government. What will they do to help us? The disaster is the equivalent of foot and mouth and flooding. It should not have happened, but that is not the fault of my constituents. I yet again make a plea for assistance with this devastating problem.

6.40 pm

Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab): This has been an extraordinary debate this afternoon. The wisdom, passion and experience of millions of people have been distilled by Labour Members. Only three Government Back Benchers spoke, but they gave not a word of contrition. There was not even any body language, to show a sense of guilt, remorse or apology for what was done during those years of the miners’ strike. The passion expressed exemplifies the feelings that still exist in the mining communities.

David T. C. Davies: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jon Trickett: I am not giving way to any hon. Member because we are running out of time.

From time to time, passion leads hon. Members to say things—I am referring to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Mr Hood). We recognise that there are ongoing investigations and it would be wrong to reference any particular individual. It would be wrong to prejudice those proceedings.

I was a plumber at the time of the strike. I was elected to the council in the middle of the strike in September 1984. I spent part of my time going round pro bono fixing the heating and plumbing systems of striking miners. I was repeatedly stopped by the police, both in the process of my election and going about my lawful business. That exemplifies the experience of many tens of thousands of people in the mining communities during that time.

There is a special dignity for those who work with their hands. The Tories simply do not share that belief. They have a different value system, one based on greed and hierarchy. They believe that the closed circle that runs our country—their spokespeople in the House—were born to rule, and that the rest of us were born to serve. That characterised their attitude during the strike. If hon. Members do not believe me, they can look at the Prime Minister’s comments in Glasgow in 2008, when he said, effectively, that the poor are responsible for their poverty. He should tell the mining communities that they were responsible for their poverty. Hon. Members should look at the next leader of the Conservative party, Boris Johnson, who only last year when talking about inequality said in The Daily Telegraph that some people are too thick to get ahead. He should tell that to the mining communities after their experience.

The miners had a totally different set of values from those of the Tories. The Tories despised their values. Their values were of community, and of mutual support and solidarity. To this very day, there is an elemental sense of equality in mining communities. The miners did not know and never would accept the meaning of the word “deference”, and rightly so. The age of deference should have died long ago, but the Tories hated the idea that working people—any working people, but in this

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case the miners—should organise themselves around those values of community and solidarity and create the most powerful trade union this country has seen.

The 1984 Cabinet papers reveal the truth, the underhand tactics and even the lies of the Government of that time, both out in the communities and in the House. People talk about miners who continued to work, but they were lied to about the Government’s intentions. That is what happened.

The Government launched a full-scale assault on the mining communities and, in doing so, destroyed the independence of the police force. There were trumped-up charges all over the coalfield communities. Criminal justice was reduced to a political instrument. There is even evidence that members of the armed forces were dressed in police uniforms by the then Government, all this to achieve Tory party political objectives.

But we are not simply speaking today about history. The Tory attitude to the miners and the former mining communities is symbolic of a wider view that they have of working people as a whole. We need only look at the explosion in the use of zero-hours contracts, temporary work and false self-employment to see that the Conservatives have not changed. They are still the same old nasty party.

Once again the Conservatives are turning their back on mining communities. In my constituency, and I guess elsewhere too, the same women who worked in the soup kitchens during the miners’ strike, and their daughters, are now working in the food banks. How can that happen in one of the richest countries of the world in 2014? Nobody would believe it was possible. The Government have failed to understand that if society asks people to work with their hands in the bowels of the earth to help to create the wealth of our country, that society—our country—owes those people a debt of gratitude, which we might describe as a social contract. When mines are closed or industries die, we have a moral duty to look after the people who created the wealth of our country in such difficult circumstances.

The previous Government did much to honour the idea of a social contract. We spent billions of pounds compensating tens of thousands of former miners for miners diseases, from which many are still suffering today. In my constituency 12,500 miners or their families went through my office during those Labour years and received damages of over £100 million—in one constituency alone. The Labour Government invested £1.5 billion in coalfield regeneration, creating employment or training for 150,000 people. It was Labour that set up the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, which assisted more than 400,000 people in finding jobs, accessing skills, getting education and improving their health.

Although much was done in those 15 years, the job is not finished. There are still high levels of ill health in my constituency and in all the coalfield areas, with 7.4% of people in the Yorkshire coalfield areas suffering ill health, compared with 5.6% nationally. Then, in mining areas with high levels of chronic diseases, we face the insult of GP cuts and hospital closures.

Unemployment is still 40% higher in coalfield areas than the national average. Deprivation levels in coalfield areas remain at 43%—

Lady Hermon rose

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Jon Trickett: I am not taking interventions.

Our society—our country—owes a debt to the miners and to all manual workers. Before I hand over to the Minister, I want to ask her four questions. First, will she on behalf of her party finally express some humility and apologise to the miners and the communities which it left devastated? Secondly, will she now authorise the release of all the papers held in the Government archives to find the truth about what happened in the mining communities, and will she authorise an independent inquiry into the events that surrounded the strike?

Thirdly, may we have a clear assurance that if the Government are still minded, even at this late stage, to find state aid to help the three remaining deep mine pits, that aid will not accelerate closure but will allow the pits to continue until the reserves are exhausted? Finally, will the Minister commit the Government to the full-scale ongoing process of regenerating the coalfield areas? Those people put themselves in harm’s way for the health and wealth of our country. Do we not have a responsibility to make sure that those communities are properly remunerated and regenerated in the future?

6.49 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Penny Mordaunt): As ever, I have come to the Chamber this afternoon in the spirit of being helpful and focused on the needs and ambitions of communities across the country. Usually, there are asks in Opposition or Adjournment debates—for more investment, greater freedom or support for public services and good causes—but there has been little of that this afternoon. Understandably, there is speculation about why the Opposition have used up their time on the Floor of the House this afternoon. I could continue to speculate about that, but I would rather focus on the needs of the communities that Opposition Members are supposed to be serving. In doing so, I wish to acknowledge the important role that our nation’s mining heritage can play in that.

In that respect, this debate is timely, as this Thursday sees a ceremony marking the groundbreaking Betteshanger Sustainable Park development in Kent—Betteshanger, of course, being the last pit to close in Kent. I was fortunate enough to visit the site only last week, to see for myself how the landmark development will transform the former Betteshanger colliery into a 21st-century global laboratory for green technologies. This pioneering project, backed by £40 million of investment, with £11 million of public sector funding, including £2.5 million from the Government’s coastal communities fund, has helped to trigger £29 million of private investment.

Betteshanger Sustainable Park is a major shot in the arm for east Kent. It will celebrate Kent’s coal mining heritage, which is juxtaposed with sustainable technologies in a world-class, zero-carbon building. It will deliver new jobs and regeneration to the whole area, putting the local community right at the heart of the development and attracting significant private sector support. The development will also provide improved access to cycling and outdoor pursuits—important facilities for local people.

The centre, scheduled to open in spring 2016, will create a new national eco-tourism visitor destination, attracting more than 1 million visitors a year. It will showcase mining heritage and sustainable energy production. A bespoke green technologies enterprise

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complex will provide space for companies in food security, environmental technology and green business. The Betteshanger sustainable education centre will support world-class research and development in environmental and countryside programmes, climate change, sustainability, and agro-ecology and production. The park itself, a gateway to east Kent, will provide lifelong learning, shops, public spaces and events, and create 1,000 jobs.

Mr David Hamilton: Will the Minister give way?

Penny Mordaunt: I am going to carry on.

That is just one example of how such communities are regenerating themselves—[Interruption]—although I am sorry that the Opposition do not want to hear it. The Government’s approach, in Kent as elsewhere, has been to enable local people, businesses and organisations, who know better than anyone else what is needed and where, to make their own decisions and set their own priorities. That is as true for coalfield communities as it is anywhere else. As part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain’s future, the Government have agreed a series of growth deals with businesses and local communities across England which will support local businesses to train young people, create thousands of new jobs, build thousands of new homes and start hundreds of infrastructure projects. There is an opportunity for local enterprise partnerships that cover former coalfield areas to play a major role in taking regeneration forward.

We have also created enterprise zones in former coalfield areas—for example, the Sheffield city region enterprise zone, which has sites on a number of former local collieries. The Orgreave colliery and coking plant has now been transformed into a centre for advanced manufacturing, while Markham Vale is benefiting from £14.2 million of capital grant funding to develop a sustainable business park, which has just announced the latest new occupier, Inspirepac, which is expanding its operation and creating hundreds of new jobs. Many Members have also mentioned the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, which has created and safeguarded more than 4,000 jobs, helped more than 125,000 gain new skills—

Helen Goodman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister who opened the debate said that unemployment in my constituency, and in several others, had fallen. I have checked, and the Office for National Statistics says that in June 2010 unemployment was 4,300, while the latest figures are 4,400. I wanted to give the Minister the opportunity to correct himself at the Dispatch Box.

Mr Speaker: The point is on the record, but that is not a matter for the Chair. The Minister will respond if she chooses to do so, and not if she chooses not to.

Penny Mordaunt: Not much has been said by Labour Members about the issues of concern to all our constituents, so I am happy to provide some balance. I can understand Labour Members not wanting to talk about growth or job creation in their own constituencies, but I had thought that at the very least they might wish to address some of the outstanding issues. Today, for example, there has been some sad news that a manufacturing plant in Barnsley has announced that it is going to close, with the loss of 120 jobs. I am pleased to see that those whose jobs are at risk are being properly supported,

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but I was surprised not to hear about that in the opening speech of the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Michael Dugher).

As I say, I can understand the Opposition not wanting to talk about growth and jobs, but I would have thought that they would want to discuss the remaining challenges. That is our focus. It is we who are focused on getting people back into work and supporting businesses and helping communities to regenerate themselves and achieve their ambitions. Unfortunately, Labour seems to have different priorities.

The contributions we have heard this afternoon have fallen firmly into two camps. From those on the Opposition Benches, we have heard speeches that have made the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) and his hybrid car look positively “with it”—speeches that have been focused on the past or on smearing members of the upper House. There was not a pipsqueak from the hon. Members for North West Durham (Pat Glass) or for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) about the achievements of businesses in their constituencies and how they are reinventing themselves in rail manufacturing, to give just one example. No Labour Member has sought to explain this afternoon why they did not reverse any of the trade union reforms they have so vilified today, or why in its 13 years in government, Labour did not tackle any of the issues Labour Members have raised today.

By contrast, contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Sherwood (Mr Spencer), for Warrington South (David Mowat), for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) and for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) have been focused on the future, on growth, job creation and helping their communities to achieve their ambitions.

Let me put on record the achievements of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, which now has a sustainable future, after its investment in property and other assets. There is also the work of the Homes and Communities Agency’s coalfields programme, which was due to progress the physical regeneration of former coalfield sites. This

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work is nearing completion, and the associated land assets are expected to form part of the HCA’s up and coming programme to dispose of public sector land. The HCA has invested about £660 million in coalfield areas during the life of the coalfields programme. The DCLG’s coalfields funds, the coalfields enterprise fund and the coalfields growth fund have also been investing in innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in deprived former coalfield areas. This will continue until 2016, when the investment phase is due to end. Other sources of investment for SMEs across the board are now available, and these funds have proved to be much more effective than the coalfield fundings, being directed through local enterprise partnerships. Much has been achieved, but there is obviously much more to do.

In closing, I will say sorry. I am sorry that Her Majesty’s Opposition are stuck in the 1970s. Their constituents and their businesses are firmly in 2014, and I hope that for their sake, their Labour representatives join them in the 21st century some time soon.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House acknowledges the economic legacy of the pit closure programme in coalfield communities across the United Kingdom; notes that the recent release of the relevant 1984 Cabinet papers showed that the Government at the time misled the public about the extent of its pit closure plans and sought to influence police tactics; recognises the regeneration of former coalfield areas over the last fifteen years, the good work of organisations such as the Coalfield Regeneration Trust, and the largest industrial injury settlement in legal history secured by the previous Government for former miners suffering from bronchitis and emphysema; further recognises the ongoing problems highlighted recently by the report produced by Sheffield Hallam University on The State of the Coalfields, which revealed that there are still significant problems for the majority of Britain’s coalfield communities, such as fewer jobs, lower business formation rates, higher unemployment rates, more people with serious health issues, higher numbers in receipt of welfare benefits and a struggling voluntary and community sector; and therefore calls for the continued regeneration and much needed support for coalfield communities as part of a wider programme to boost growth in Britain’s regions.

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A5 Trunk Road (M42/M69)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

Mr Speaker: When Members have toddled out of the Chamber, speedily and quietly, Mr Marcus Jones can rise to his feet to orate.

7 pm

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): I am delighted to have been able to secure a debate about one of the busiest and most congested parts of our strategic road network. I am pleased to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (David Tredinnick) is present—he, too, has a constituency interest in this busy stretch of the A5—and I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for his time, and for the consideration that I hope he will give to the debate.

Let me explain why I am concerned about this stretch of the A5, and why I believe that there needs to be a fundamental rethink about the future of that busy highway for the sake of my constituents who live on the route, and for the sake of economic growth in the west and east midlands corridor.

The A5, or Watling street, which marks the northern boundary of my constituency, was built by the Romans, who originally built the road from Londinium to Deva—or London to Chester, as we know them today. I have not established the exact date when Watling street was built, but the fact that the Romans withdrew from Britain in 410 AD gives us a slight clue as to the longevity of the route. I am certain that the sheer volume of traffic that would use Watling street in the 21st century was never envisaged, even once the ownership of cars became commonplace after the second world war. That is why so many other sections of the busy road, which now stretches from London to Holyhead, have been substantially changed to reflect the volume of vehicles that use it.

Today, the A5 between junction 10 of the M42 and junction 1 of the M69 is one of the most congested routes on the strategic road network, particularly between the Longshoot junction and the Dodwells roundabout. That section is considered to be the 15th most congested section of road on the network. Many of my constituents live along Watling Street and on feeder roads such as the Longshoot, Higham lane, Weddington road and Woodford lane. They live every day with the imposition of queuing traffic, high levels of noise and massive pollution.

The pressure on the route is often compounded when traffic shifts from the M6 to the A5. There are regular closures on the M6. As my right hon. Friend knows, I have expressed concern in the House before about the safety of junctions 1 to 4 on the M6, where there are regular accidents. My constituents are affected by the way in which the traffic shifts from the motorway through my constituency to the A5 in order to reach the M42 and the M69. You probably think that that is a subject for a debate on another day, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend will give my comments some consideration tonight.

Over the decades, this section of the A5 has undergone numerous redesigns to deal with safety issues and to mitigate the growing number of vehicles on our roads. For many years my constituents have suffered from the

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disruption of regular roadworks that are intended to improve the situation. At this very moment, work is taking place from the Dodwells roundabout to the Royal Red Gate junction, where the A5 meets the A444. Just tonight, I was interviewed on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire about the issue, along with a very disgruntled lady who was less than happy about the current disruption. I think that that disruption is extremely unfortunate, but it is quite necessary. Much of the work that is being undertaken between the Royal Red Gate and Higham lane junctions is facilitating the new Motor Industry Research Association technology park, which is creating more than 2,000 new jobs. As well as the new jobs, that part of the route will have a very positive effect on the local area because it is being turned into dual carriageway. Inevitably, that progress will put greater stress on the Longshoot junction and the Dodwells roundabout east of MIRA, but that will largely be mitigated by the current pinch-point scheme now under construction. The changes now taking place on the A5 will have a positive effect and there will be gain for the pain that my constituents and the many users of this busy route are experiencing.

I am also convinced, however, that we need a longer-term solution and we must seek it now. We cannot wait five, 10, 15 or 20 years before we consider the future. That would not be right for my constituents or the wider west and east midlands economy.

A substantial amount of development is planned along the A5 corridor both in my constituency and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth. As my constituents know, I do not agree with all the development plans being promoted by the local planning authority in my constituency. However, it appears from the approach it is taking that these developments will go ahead whether I or my constituents like them or not. We must therefore think about substantive solutions for this section of the A5 to deal with the future issues.

My right hon. Friend the Minister will also be aware of the significant partnership-working currently taking place on the issue between the Highways Agency, the Coventry and Warwickshire local enterprise partnership, the Leicester and Leicestershire LEP, Warwickshire county council, Leicestershire county council, and the Nuneaton and Bedworth, Hinckley and Bosworth and North Warwickshire borough councils. The Minister will know that those agencies have jointly started to conduct some very embryonic work on a strategic enhancement of this section of the A5. They are looking at the issues and constraints that affect that busy section of highway.

That work has been conducted by the partnership, which has been formed because there is a strong business case for a long-term solution to the problems we face on that section of highway. It is thought that a long-term solution for that section of the A5 could bring savings of £680 million through better travel times, lower vehicle operating costs and a reduction in the accident rate on what is a busy stretch of road. That proposal aligns with the strategic growth aspirations of both the public sector and the private sector in the area. This evening I am asking the Minister to look at the detail of the embryonic work that has already been conducted and that I am sure his Department has seen.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a very strong case for the A5, which is an important route from the M1 at junction 18 to the

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north-west, avoiding the M6. I wonder whether we might persuade the Minister to look at the southern part of the A5 as well, from the M69 down to the M1. There will be very substantial housing and commercial development at the junction 18 end, and we could use that as an opportunity to improve that thoroughfare.

Mr Jones: I thank my hon. Friend, who represents Rugby. I completely agree with his request in relation to the section further down the A5, which can only help the situation further up the A5, to the benefit of my constituents and the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth. I would also say in that regard that the work currently going on at the Catthorpe interchange, where the M6 meets the M1-A14, will have an extremely positive effect for our constituents in addressing, hopefully, some of the issues—not all, but some—that I referred to earlier: the A5 and Nuneaton get so clogged with traffic due to accidents on the M6.

This evening, I am asking the Minister to speak to my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Transport and the Chancellor about this issue, which is a matter of major concern for my constituents and many other people living in the region. He will know that the embryonic work has been carried out. I am now looking for a sympathetic ear in the hope that he will put forward my argument that funding for a further in-depth investigation and feasibility study of this busy stretch of the strategic road network should be made available. The investigation needs to include all stakeholders, particularly the people who live on and are affected by the current route.

I know how diligent the Minister is. He has helped me personally with other issues in my constituency, including the fallout following the closure of Daw Mill colliery. I remember the assistance that he gave me at that time, and I am confident that he will try to help in whatever way he can now. We have an autumn statement coming up, and I am sure that he will make a strong case to the Secretary of State and the Chancellor so that we can look at the long-term future of this busy section of the A5, which needs urgent consideration. I hope that the points that I have put on record tonight will go some way to enabling the case to go forward, so that we can do the right thing for my constituents. That has not been achieved under numerous Governments over the decades, and my constituents have had to put up with absolute mayhem on that section of this busy route.

7.11 pm

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) for sharing the debate with me. He has done a great job in representing Nuneaton in the House since his election. He has been a credit to his constituents and it has always been a pleasure to work with him.

The problem with this section of the A5 is a problem of success as much as of failure. The huge expansion of MIRA as well as of the business park that was agreed by my right hon. Friend the Minister’s coalition colleagues, has created thousands of jobs. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton said, this is a unique stretch of road. Indeed, the section to which he referred, between Dodwells bridge and the Longshoot, actually consists of two roads: the A5 Watling street and the

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A47. However, the one does not run above the other. Both are confined into the space of a narrow highway the width of an old-fashioned turnpike.

My hon. Friend has talked about the importance of the road generally. I should like to alert the Minister to a specific problem that is affecting my constituency at the crossing of the A444 and the A5 at the Royal Red Gate junction. I raise the matter because it reflects badly on the organisations concerned, including the Government, the Highways Agency, the county council and Hinckley and Bosworth borough council, none of which has properly consulted Witherley parish council about the matter.

I should like to say a few words about parish councils. The people representing their residents on parish councils are the salt of the earth. They are often very clever people such as the chair of Witherley parish council, who was the head of government and industry affairs at East Midlands airport. We have in this instance a complete failure of communication, in that the local people are under the strong impression that they are not being properly consulted. I ask the Minister to ensure that, when the roundabout at the Royal Red Gate junction is developed, clear signage is put in place to divert the long-distance traffic off on to the M42 and well away from the A5. Also, we do not want the problem of rat runs being blocked, or unblocked, without consultation. I am deeply grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton for raising this important matter, and I look forward—as I am sure he does—to hearing the Minister’s reply.

7.14 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr John Hayes): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) on securing this debate on the A5 trunk road between the M42, junction 10 and the M69, junction 2. As has been said, he has been a tireless campaigner on the need for future investment in this road, and I recognise his continuing courageous determination in that respect. He has raised this issue on behalf of his constituents, local businesses and the local economy. C.S Lewis said that

“courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point”.

My hon. Friend’s courage has been in evidence once again tonight in raising these matters.

This Government recognise the crucial role that transport infrastructure plays in facilitating growth across the country and creating a more balanced economy, but that alone would not be justification, of itself; I take the view, and have increasingly evangelised it in the Department and more widely, that improving transport is also about well-being, communal opportunity, individual chances to gain employment and new experiences, and good civil society. I see transport and communications in that broader perspective, which I know my hon. Friend shares. In connecting communities and in enabling people to access jobs, services and leisure, transport can play a vital role in regenerative efforts. That is why we have been determined to reverse the effects of the previous Administration’s neglect by securing significant levels of investment in our strategic road network.

All Governments make mistakes and all Governments do things well. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I like to be generous in these matters, but one of the previous

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regime’s mistakes was to allow their approach to roads to be driven by the piecemeal, the ad hoc and the reactive. By contrast, this Government are taking a strategic, long-term, lateral view of the importance of investing in roads, which is why we have committed five-year funding to strategic road investment. Hon. Members will know that the detail of that investment in strategic transport infrastructure was set out by the Chancellor in last year’s spending review statement. The Treasury Command Paper “Investing in Britain’s future” set out that this Government will invest more than £28 billion in enhancements and maintenance of both national and local roads over the period up to 2020-21. That long-term vision, backed by funding, will build consistency and coherence into the approach we take to road development. It means that existing roads will be improved—we are resurfacing about 80% of the nation’s roads— and we will invest £10.7 billion in major national road projects, as well as £6 billion in the maintenance of strategic roads.

On the future investment in the strategic network, my hon. Friend will be aware that the Highways Agency is currently conducting its route strategy process. Route strategies will provide a smarter approach to investment planning across the network, through greater collaboration with local stakeholders to determine the nature, need and timing of those investments. The process has been hallmarked by two stages, the first of which has been completed. It identified performance issues on routes, future challenges and growth opportunities, taking full account of local priorities and aspirations, with the finalised evidence made available on 23 April. The second stage is well under way; utilising the evidence, we are establishing outline operational and investment priorities for all routes on the strategic road network, and we will take forward a programme of work to identify indicative solutions, which will cover operational, maintenance and, if appropriate, road improvement schemes to inform future investment plans.

Mark Pawsey: Will the Minister acknowledge the importance of the improvement of such roads to the road haulage industry—many of its firms are based in my constituency—and the important part that logistics plays in our national economy?

Mr Hayes: Indeed, and it was for that very reason that I met the representative body of road hauliers just last week, in the spirit that my hon. Friend personifies. In congratulating and applauding the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton, I must also pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) and for Bosworth (David Tredinnick), who have been tireless campaigners in the defence of and, moreover, in their aspirations for their constituents. They have all taken a particular interest in the A5.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for giving way. May I say that, as a Transport Minister, he is also the people’s friend? In support of my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones), may I pray in aid the A5, which is a very important route that my constituents use from the exit of the M42? One part of that exit, which is not dualled, is the exit going towards my hon. Friend’s constituency

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through north Warwickshire. The route is important for infrastructure and for my constituents. I urge the Minister to listen to what he says.

Mr Hayes: My hon. Friend follows in the tradition of his predecessor, Sir Robert Peel, who also represented Tamworth, in his determination to do what is right for those whom he serves. I prefer to be inspired by Disraeli, as perhaps my hon. Friend does too. None the less, that is an important tradition, and he makes, as always, a powerful argument in this Chamber.

The Government already recognise the importance of improving the A5. The Highways Agency pinch-point scheme for the M42 junction 10, which was completed earlier this year, along with the Highways Agency pinch- point scheme for the A5-A47 Longshoot and Dodwells junctions, which has recently started on site, are due to be completed by March 2015.

In addition, the MIRA enterprise zone, which is located adjacent to the A5 in Hinckley, was successful in securing regional growth funding with which it is providing A5 improvements. Those improvements include increasing the capacity at the A444 Red Gate junction as well as improving the access arrangements to the site itself. Those works are currently on site and are expected to be completed by March 2015.

Overall, these schemes show Government investment of around £15 million into improving this section of the A5. However, I recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton is concerned that the scale and potential economic and housing growth along the corridor will place increasing pressure on the A5 and that—he has made the case tonight—further investment in the route is necessary. To that end I commend the efforts made by—

Mr Marcus Jones: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Hayes: Let me finish what I was saying, as I am about to commend my hon. Friend and I know that he would not want to miss that.

I was about to say that I commend the efforts made to date by my hon. Friend, along with the relevant local stakeholders, to engage with the Highways Agency through its route strategy process. I recognise that concerns over the capacity of the A5 were raised by a number of local stakeholders during the Highways Agency’s route strategy stakeholder event, with a particular reference to the notable economic and housing development planned along the corridor.

Mr Jones: I thank my right hon. Friend for his kind words, which will, I am sure, be matched with action by him to support my constituents in relation to this important route. May I also impress on him the importance of consultation with the public in relation to any changes to the A5? Over many years, there have been lots of different reconfigurations, particularly at the Red Gate and Longshoot junctions, on which, unfortunately, my constituents have not been consulted. Many think that, as a result, they have not seen the best outcomes.

Mr Hayes: At this point, to the distress of my officials no doubt, I will detach myself from the prepared brief and say two things. First, if that is the case, then I will give this guarantee to the House tonight from this

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Dispatch Box that we will improve the way in which we engage with local stakeholders to ensure that any omission or error is not completed. Secondly, as my hon. Friend mentioned that the A5 was a Roman road, I will draw on G.K. Chesterton’s poem, “The Rolling English Road”. I am inspired by the following words. Chesterton talked about walking with

“clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth.”

I assure my hon. Friend that with that clear sight, this listening Minister in this listening Government will ensure once again that local people’s views are taken fully into account.

David Tredinnick rose

Mr Hayes: I will give way briefly to my hon. Friend, because I want to then say some other exciting and exhilarating things.

David Tredinnick: I am not seeking a commendation such as that given to my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton.

There has been poor consultation on the Red Gate junction. If the Minister is going to put up barriers on these major roads, they will have to be concrete to make sure that no one can break through them when they are not supposed to.

Mr Hayes: I am mindful of what my hon. Friend says and I want to pay particular attention to those remarks and his earlier remarks if I have time in a few moments. He raised some important concerns that are particular but deserve full consideration.

As I say, I commend the partnership working between local authorities along the corridor, with the relevant Government departments, including the Highways Agency, and the efforts that have been undertaken recently to carry out an initial study of the potential substantive options for the route. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton paid attention to that in his remarks. Although this is only an initial step, as he acknowledged, I understand that the embryonic work indicates that a very significant scheme to improve the full length of the route between the M42 and the M69 to dual carriageway standard may be an appropriate long-term option.

This proposal is being considered by the Highways Agency through the route strategy process. At this stage I cannot guarantee that funding further to progress the

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study work for such a solution to the A5 will be included in the upcoming roads investment strategy, but I will guarantee this evening that it will be actively considered, along with other proposals for the strategic network, and mindful of the remarks of my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who have fought this brave campaign, I will reinforce those concerns when I return to the Department tomorrow morning.

I want to say a particular word to my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth, because he has raised some specific doubts about some of the road closures that have taken place. This is not the first time that he has raised them in the House. Again, his diligence speaks for itself. I want to give him this assurance. I understand that the road closures in their current format meet safety and access requirements and though the disruption is significant for some, I know he welcomes growth across the network. As a result of his intervention tonight, I will ask the Department to look again at the impact of those closures, what more the Highway Agency can do to make sure they are as minimal as they can be, and to take any further measures to ease problems that may arise from that disruption.

I said at the outset of the debate that my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton has done the House a service. It may be unconventional, but I take the view that Government policy should be framed and shaped through debates such as this. It is not sufficient for a Minister to stand here and not respond to hon. Members’ concerns, on whatever side of the Chamber they sit. I will ensure that in all the work we do as a Government, and our agencies do on our behalf, the considerations of hon. Members, representing and articulating as they do the concerns of the people they serve, are at the very heart of what the Government do.

C. S. Lewis also said:

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

I know that my hon. Friend’s goal, and that of other hon. Members, is that the A5 serves its purpose in delivering the well-being that I described and fuelling the economic growth that we all seek. This debate has taken that dream one step further.

Question put and agreed to.

7.29 pm

House adjourned.