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Local and Regional Economies: Transport

Volume 632: debated on Monday 4 December 2017

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on investment to support the growth of local and regional economies. (902695)

Our Departments have developed a joint programme of work to better integrate our funding decisions and policies so that we maximise economic growth and deliver an improved transport system for Great Britain.

Why did the autumn Budget not allocate any new funding to the Yorkshire and Humber region as part of the northern powerhouse, when there is clear evidence of underfunding for the rail network across the region?

The Transforming Cities fund of some £1.7 billion, of which £850 million remains unallocated, is available to all local authorities to bid for to improve intra-city transport. In total, we are investing £13 billion in northern infrastructure in this Parliament—more than any Government in history.

21. Some £5.8 million has been invested, under the second devolution deal, to unlock congestion in the west midlands, and the west midlands tram network will be expanded to Dudley—or Dud-lie, which I believe is the correct pronunciation. Will my hon. Friend prevail on the Secretary of State to continue to liaise with the Mayor of the west midlands, Andy Street, so that that good work can continue? (902712)

I am sure that everyone in the House was delighted that in the Budget we agreed a second ambitious devolution deal with Andy Street. While my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, as the midlands engine champion, is the supercharger for the midlands engine, Andy Street is its turbocharger.

Tomorrow my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) will open a debate on tolls on the Mersey crossing. Does the Minister accept that the fact that people cannot cross the Mersey between Warrington and Liverpool without paying a toll, whether across the bridge or through the tunnels, is holding back the regional economy? If so, will he have urgent discussions with his colleagues at the Department for Transport, to rectify the situation?

I have already held discussions with Steve Rotheram, the Labour Mayor of Liverpool, who told me that he supported the toll charges.

Swindon is building houses at roughly three times the rate of the national average and we wish to go further. Does the Minister support Swindon’s proposal to use the Transforming Cities fund to extend the Oxford and Cambridge rail link to Swindon, which would unlock further new homes in Swindon?

That is a tempting invitation to support a bid to the Transforming Cities fund. That is exactly what the fund is designed to do. When people make good, ground-up, locally supported proposals, the fund, on a competitive basis, should be there to support them.

London received almost £2,000 per person in transport investment, while the figure for Yorkshire and the Humber was just £190, the north-east just £220, and the north-west £680. Even if every penny of the £800 million that has been referred to was allocated to the north, it would amount to just £53 per head. When will the northern powerhouse get the money it needs to compete on a par with London?

I am sure that the left-wing think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, is delighted its figures have been repeated in the Chamber, but they are simply incorrect. They do not include 60% of our national infrastructure spending or the spending on HS2, which I know, as someone who was born and brought up in the north, and who lives and works there, will benefit the north more than any other part of our country.