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Regional Expenditure

Volume 636: debated on Thursday 1 March 2018

We do not allocate transport funding on a per head of population basis; our decisions are based on a rigorous and fair appraisal process that ensures that spending goes where it is most needed and where it delivers the greatest value for money. Recent analysis by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority shows that planned central Government transport investment over the next four years is evenly balanced, with £1,039 per head of population in the north, compared with £1,029 in the south.

May I first take this opportunity to thank all those involved in keeping our transport systems going in this inclement weather? I am sure that fellow Yorkshire MPs will have shared my surprise at the Secretary of State’s recent article in The Yorkshire Post, in which he claimed that spending in the north was somehow greater than that in the south—if, through a rather imaginative calculation, we ignore London. Does he agree that simply spinning figures will not fix our archaic northern railway systems or get northern commuters to work on time?

I echo the hon. Lady’s comments about those who are working hard to keep the transport system open today; we are very grateful to them all. In a week when the Labour party has already had issues with its use of statistics, she should look up the official statistics from the independent Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which show that planned central Government spending is higher in the north than it is in the south.

I am sure that we could spend more Government money on transport in the east midlands, particularly in Northamptonshire, and especially in Kettering. The new franchise for the midland main line is currently being negotiated. Will the Secretary of State ensure that Kettering’s rail services are better after the franchise is awarded than they are now?

My hon. Friend, who is a strong champion of Kettering, will be delighted to know that the expansion in capacity to Corby means that there will be a much better commuter service in the mornings and evenings through Corby down to Kettering, and to Wellingborough and beyond. That is one of the benefits of the biggest investment in the midland main line since the 1870s.

Just to give the Secretary of State an example of unequal treatment, is it true that for the new east midlands rail franchise in 2020 the current HST—high-speed trains—carriages will be scrapped, because they are disability non-compliant, and the power cars will then be matched with second-hand, cast-off carriages from the east coast main line? Instead of the brand new, hybrid hydrogen trains that we were promised, we will be getting hybrid trains composed of 30-year-old power cars and 30-year-old discarded carriages from another line.

I do not know what stories the Labour party has been listening to. The midland main line will have brand new, bi-mode trains delivered as soon as possible—

In the early 2020s, which is years ahead of what would otherwise have been the case under the original scheme.

Within the context of equity of spending, I wonder whether, after this snow event is over, my right hon. Friend will ask some serious questions about, or even have a review of, why we still seem to be in no way prepared for such events. For example, I discovered yesterday that Heathrow is busy offloading flights because it cannot cope, whereas—[Interruption.]

Yes, regional flights. What I am saying is that, given all of that, airports such as Gatwick and others are able to cope. Does my right hon. Friend not think that it is ridiculous that some airports are simply unable to cope while others across the UK can?

I know that a number of Members are here today because their flights to regional airports have not been able to take off. I hope and expect that we will be able to sort that out as quickly as possible today, although it is really important that the transport system is run safely. Of course, one of the benefits of the expansion of Heathrow is that the airport would become more resilient to such difficult situations, and connections to regional airports would be more reliable.

I, too, pay tribute to those transport workers who are keeping the system going at this difficult time. The Secretary of State said in his first answer that the allocation of funding is a rigorous and fair process, so can he explain why the Government have ignored the Office of Rail Regulation’s recommendations by underfunding Scotland by £600 million? Since then his Department has been able to cope with a £240 million loss of revenue as a result of the situation with Southern rail and found £245 million for High Speed 2. The Government have been ignoring the Scottish Government since last July, so will they now meet the Scottish Government, or are these just weasel words about equity of funding?

Once again, the Scottish National party is arguing against the use of the Barnett formula. SNP Members love the Barnett formula when they think it is advantageous to them, but when they do not like the Barnett formula, they want to get rid of it. I simply say to them that this Government have followed the principles of the Barnett formula, and actually the Treasury has given Scotland a bit more money above that. I wish the SNP would stop complaining. The reality is that Scotland is now better represented, with a group of Conservative MPs who are much more effective than the SNP ever was in getting this Government to do that bit extra for Scotland.