11 Jan 2012 08:54:09

Tory MPs raise their grievances, hopes and caution with Justine Greening over HS2

By Joseph Willits 
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After Justine Greening's announcement giving the go-ahead for a high speed rail network, High Speed 2 (HS2), 37 Conservative MPs were able to question the Transport Secretary within 60 minutes. 

The exchanges demonstrated the opposition of those MPs whose constituencies are directly affected by high speed rail. However their reservations were outweighed by praise for the scheme from MPs namely in the North and the Midlands - and some in the South East who claimed that their seats have benefitted from HS1.

Fervent critic of high speed rail, Andrea Leadson MP (South Northamptonshire), questioned the project's costs in yesterday's debate. Leadsom praised the Transport Secretary's patience in listening to her concerns many times, but spoke of "communities blighted by this high-speed rail line". She continued: 

"How sure is she that the actual costs in their entirety will be kept to the amounts we have been talking about, and how realistic is it for Britain to afford this project at this very difficult time economically?".

The country "cannot afford not to do this" replied Greening, who cited High Speed 1 as an example of being both on time, and on budget. Once Crossrail had been completed, the cost to the taxpayer would begin, Greening said.

Another MP whose constituency will be touched by high-speed rail, Steve Baker MP (Wycombe), welcomed that "additional protections for the Chilterns will reduce costs", but asked whether Greening would "consider tunnelling the entire width of the Chilterns?". At £1.2 billion, although considered, was "unaffordable", replied Greening.

Drawing examples from both France and Spain, St Albans MP Anne Main raised concerns "that the north might not get the projected benefit and that instead it might be London that grows". Both Lyon and Seville were "caused expense" rather than growth as Paris and Madrid benefitted, she said.

Greening responded by reiterating the backing for the project, and that the cities of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield all believe "this project is vital." Rehman Chishti MP (Gillingham) reminded the House that "real concern was expressed prior to the introduction of High Speed 1 in Kent". This has now led to "real economic regeneration and growth in the south-east and Kent", he continued. Another Kent MP, Damian Collins (Folkestone & Hythe) echoed Chishti's sentiment with the hope that Kent will further benefit from connections north.

MPs from the North and the Midlands were most vocal in their support for the project. Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew spoke of the need to "rebalance the economy" nationwide, and allow the North "to become more attractive for business to invest in". The "solution", he said, was HS2. Martin Vickers MP (Cleethorpes), who has many constituents working at the Tata Steel plant in Scunthorpe, welcomed the announcement of HS2 as a boost to industry. He asked for "categorical assurance that everything possible will be done to ensure that the procurement procedures favour British-based companies". His sentiment was echoed by Nigel Mills MP (Amber Valley) who concluded that the decision would "be even more popular in Derbyshire if the trains are built at Bombardier".

Some MPs in the Midlands did seem to be slightly cautious about the region's positioning, leading to a lesser service and coverage by HS2. Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy spoke of businesses in north Staffordshire requiring stops between Birmingham and Manchester (of which Stafford would be one). This "stop is essential to the development of the regional economy", Lefroy said, and asked Greening to "confirm that it is still under serious consideration". Rugby MP Mark Pawsey's concern was slightly different in that the town's good service to London could be jeopardised by high speed rail. He hoped that even with high speed rail, "the legacy line will retain the speed and frequency of their existing rail links".

You can watch the debate on the BBC's Democracy Live.

13 Dec 2011 19:25:09

Changes to the scrap metal industry, and a new taskforce to deal with the problem of metal theft will be implemented says James Brokenshire

By Joseph Willits 
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BrokenshireParliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, James Brokenshire MP, has answered questions from four Tory MPs about the Government's plans to combat metal theft. Brokenshire said that "the Home Office is discussing with other Departments what legislative changes are necessary to assist enforcement agencies and deter offenders". Some of the measures to do so, he said, would include "introducing a new licence regime for scrap metal dealers and prohibiting cash payments" and establishing a "metal theft taskforce" together with the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Responding to a question from Gravesham MP Adam Holloway about the financial implications of metal theft, Brokenshire said the cost could be "anywhere between £220 million and £777 million per annum". Holloway asked whether there was "any argument for seizing the entire inventories of metal dealers found to be purchasing what are effectively stolen goods". Brokenshire confirmed that this was one of the reasons for a new taskforce, "to inform intelligence and ensure that those responsible for such crimes are brought to justice".

Continue reading "Changes to the scrap metal industry, and a new taskforce to deal with the problem of metal theft will be implemented says James Brokenshire" »

22 Nov 2011 16:03:48

Motor biking MP Mike Weatherley joins protest outside the European Parliament in Brussels against EU regulation

By Joseph Willits 
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WeatherlybikeKeen biker and Hove and Portslade MP, Mike Weatherley, didn't quite get into his leathers today in Brussels, but he did join motorcycling protestors outside the European Parliament. Riders' rights groups have been urging fellow motor cyclists to take part in a day of action against proposed EU regulations. The proposals would force bikers to wear fluorescent clothing, and would not allow any customisation of motorbikes.

Weatherley, who in September led a convoy of bikers in protest into Brighton city centre, said that "for many motor cyclists, tuning, improving and transforming their machines is a large part of the satisfaction of owning a bike. These proposals will ruin that." He stressed that riders were "in favour of responsibility and safety on the roads", but over regulation, and these "intrusive measures"were not the answer. If bikers were forced to wear flurosecent clothing, Weatherley asked where the measures would end:

"Will there be reflective strips on all motor cars, and will all pedestrians have to wear high-visibility jackets every time they walk out to the shops?"

Continue reading "Motor biking MP Mike Weatherley joins protest outside the European Parliament in Brussels against EU regulation" »