« Theresa May promises to hound James Purnell on welfare reform | Main | Maria Miller calls on the Government to reduce the gender pay gap »

Geoff Hoon ludicrously blames Theresa Villers for Railtrack

Theresa_villiers_mpThe House of Commons hosted Transport questions yesterday. Secretary of State for Transport, Geoff Hoon, made a quite absurd remark about Theresa Villiers.

Before that Wellingborough MP Peter asked about electric rail:

"What date he has set for the full electrification of the midland main line. [250986]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): Electrification is advantageous on heavily used parts of the rail network. Electric trains are lighter, quieter and produce less carbon dioxide. In my statement to the House on 15 January, I announced that, commensurate with the timetable for procuring the new inter-city express fleet, I intended to make a decision on electrification of the midland main line north of Bedford later this year.

Mr. Bone: Last month there were four dewirements on the west coast main line, causing havoc to the service, so will the Government learn from previous electrifications and build a scheme that is of a high standard, and not on the cheap? Otherwise, when the wind blows in Derbyshire the trains will stop in Wellingborough.

Mr. Hoon: I do not accept for a moment the implication of the hon. Gentleman’s remarks—that somehow the improvements to the west coast main line were done on the cheap, or that the failures that occurred over the new year period were attributable to the upgrade. Indeed, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who is generally a fair-minded man, will look at the evidence that demonstrates that a number of different problems arose, that they were all caused separately, and that they were not in any way related to the upgrade programme. I will certainly send him details of the investigations that resulted, but if he accepts what I have said, he will recognise that the proposals to electrify both the midland main line and the Great Western main line do not need to suffer from any particular problems of the kind that have been suggested as being associated with the upgrade of the west coast main line."

Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers asked about Network Rail:

"Is not the real reason why it takes so long for the west coast main line to recover from disruptive incidents the fact that when Labour created Network Rail, Ministers left it accountable to nobody—not to the regulator, not to the train operators and certainly not to the passenger? Is it not time to reform Network Rail so that its management have to be accountable to a more effective structure than the toothless membership that they themselves appoint?

Mr. Hoon: I find the hon. Lady’s remarks curious, given the sad history of Railtrack, for which her party, in government, was solely responsible. My predecessor created Network Rail to deal with the complete failure of Railtrack, over which she and her Government presided."

Theresa Villiers most assuredly did not preside over Railtrack! She entered the House of Commons in 2005.

Shadow Minister Robert Goodwill asked about motorcycle tests:

"Who is going to take responsibility for the botched and chaotic introduction of the new motorcycle test, which is due to come in on 27 April, seven months late? Many young riders will be deterred from taking the test because of the distance that they might have to travel or the fact that in some cases the test will be split in two. Will the Minister answer my hon. Friend’s question about how he has the barefaced cheek to introduce the higher fee from October even though the new test will not be introduced until this April?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I think that I responded to the final element of the question: the money is being spent on the new centres and the DSA has to balance its books. As for who takes responsibility for the delay, ultimately, I do. The decision was taken on the basis of the number of test centres that were available. I did not think that there were enough centres to meet the accessibility criteria that the DSA had set itself in terms of the distance that individuals would have to travel to take their tests. The delay has allowed additional test centres to be completed, and it has allowed temporary test centres to be identified. The coverage will be far greater when the new test regime is introduced later this year."

Perhaps, eleven-and-a-half years after Labour came to power, it is time for Cabinet ministers to follow Jim Fitzpatrick's lead and accept responsibility for Government policy.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.