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Regional Transport Infrastructure Investment

Volume 629: debated on Thursday 19 October 2017

16. What recent assessment he has made of the equity of the distribution of regional transport infrastructure investment. (901292)

The most recently published statistics on the distribution of regional transport infrastructure investment appear in Her Majesty’s Treasury’s “Country and Regional Analysis November 2016”.

In response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), the Secretary of State seemed to cast doubt on the existence of inequalities in regional infrastructure spend. He should know that Yorkshire and the Humber has the lowest per capita regional infrastructure investment in the country at just £190 per head, compared with £1,900 per head in London. What are the Government going to do to address that basic unfairness?

I always try to be helpful in the Chamber, and I know that the hon. Gentleman is doing his best, but a lot of what has been published about this is, quite frankly, just wrong. He may be drawing on the Institute for Public Policy Research North figures, which do not take account of the whole picture. They consider only 40% of the national infrastructure pipeline, exclude schemes that cross regions and ignore the majority of smaller transport schemes. He is a diligent constituency MP, so he will know that they do not include—perhaps he has not factored this in either—the work that is being done on local roads at junction 36 of the M62. I hope that when he stands up to speak again in this Chamber, he will welcome the Government’s commitment to his area of the north of England.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is closely familiar with junction 36, about which, I dare say, we shall hear more in due course.

May I urge my right hon. Friend to be very granular when making such sub-regional assessments, to ensure within a regional context that rural areas, not just urban areas, secure the funding that they need?

As my hon. Friend, who is such a great champion of his constituents, knows, I am a representative of Lincolnshire, so I could hardly fail to have rural interests deep in my heart.

This week, the OECD argued that addressing the regional productivity divide between high-productivity areas, such as London, and lower productivity regions can be a key channel for fostering long-term growth and sharing prosperity. Does the Minister not accept that the Government’s cuts to rail upgrades will entrench regional transport inequalities and damage business by embedding the regional productivity divide?

Let us try to find common cause, shall we? It is absolutely right that we look at regional investment inequalities, and it is absolutely right, too, that we do not regard all investment in the south of England as good, while ignoring the rest. The Government are not doing that; that is the point. The Government are rebalancing investment across the whole kingdom, for we recognise that. I could be tiresome—[Interruption.] I know that that is hard to believe, but I could be, if I were to list the series of investments we are making in rail and road across the north. Rather than tiring you, Mr Speaker, or the House, we will set them out in a note, which we will distribute afterwards. Perhaps, then, the hon. Gentleman will also try to find common cause. To start with, he might want to look at the transport investment strategy that we have published, which is a starting point for learners in this field.

The Secretary of State has claimed that cancelling upgrades means affected areas will be spared disruption and that electrification is no longer necessary because the same benefits will be achieved with bi-mode trains reliant on diesel. Is his policy to provide regions across our country with second-rate railways, and is not the reality that his claims about the wonders of polluting diesel are, like digging for victory, a load of tripe?

Again, I simply say, let us look at the facts. We are investing in rail in the north. After all, this Government are investing in Transport for the North to do exactly what he describes. It is true that we need to look at a range of technologies to achieve what we want, but the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is: new trains, faster routes, more rail, more road investment—what is there not to like about that?