Oral Answers to Questions

George Freeman Excerpts
Thursday 13th October 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the hon. Member’s championing of a great area in the country in the east of England. I am aware of the litigation that he refers to. His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is considering any implications that that may have on VAT payable by private hire vehicle operators. As he will know, the Government keep all taxes under review at all times. I am sure that the Minister responsible for this area, Baroness Vere in the other place, will be happy to meet him.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con)
- Hansard - -

4. Whether her Department is taking steps to increase investment in the regeneration of stations outside cities to (a) improve access for (i) local residents, (ii) commuters and (iii) tourists and (b) support growth hubs.

Kevin Foster Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Kevin Foster)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government recognise that stations are the heart of many communities across our country, providing vital transport links. We are investing in stations through the new stations fund and the restoring your railway programme, as well as through wider enhancement and renewal schemes. We are also providing accessibility improvements through the £383 million Access for All programme.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I am grateful for that answer. No region is more poised to deliver growth for this country than the east, with agritech, cleantech, biotech and every other tech, but we are being held back by terrible infrastructure. The residents of East Anglia want a commitment to regional rail—what Network Rail dismisses as small regional routes—right at the heart of a growth vision. Will my right hon. and hon. Friends agree to support the role of stations in rural areas? There are 52 in East Anglia. They could all be innovation hubs and be redeveloped. They are going nowhere at the moment. In particular, there is Wymondham station in my patch, where disabled passengers have to go to Norwich to change platforms. We have waited 10 years. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made big commitments. Will the Minister meet me to drive rural stations for growth?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am always delighted to meet colleagues who share my passion for investing in our rail network and who recognise that our stations are not just a handy place to board a train, but are sometimes the heart of a local community. We are investing in our stations: for example, we recently delivered a new mobility hub at Norwich station in the east of England. I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend.

Oral Answers to Questions

George Freeman Excerpts
Thursday 2nd July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps he is taking to increase the use of hydrogen vehicles.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Whether the transport decarbonisation plan will support the UK to become a world leader in hydrogen technology.

Rachel Maclean Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Rachel Maclean)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are accelerating the use of hydrogen vehicles through demonstration and R&D projects to fulfil our ambitions for greener transport and to level up the country. Decarbonising transport requires the sector and users to embrace new technology and innovations such as hydrogen like never before.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend’s comments. We are totally well placed to be a leader in clean hydrogen and fuel cell technology, and that is down to our high-quality engineering and manufacturing capability. This Government, I as a Minister and the whole Department are working at pace to develop our green recovery plan, and hydrogen will form a key part of that.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman [V]
- Hansard - -

I thank the Minister and the Secretary of State for the work that they are doing, in particular, on the transport decarbonisation plan that he and I started together. Does the Minister agree that to make the post-covid recovery a real catalyst both for levelling up and sustainable growth, an industrial strategy for hydrogen fuel with four, five or six green hydrogen transport hubs, from Aberdeen to Teesside, Norfolk, Bristol and Northern Ireland, and a major procurement package for hydrogen buses would really help the UK to take a lead, drive down the cost, and lead in the science and R&D of hydrogen fuel?

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend for his valuable contribution in driving forward this vital agenda. We are a world leader in technology, innovation and R&D and, as he will know, we have invested £121 million in UK hydrogen technology to make sure that it plays a key part in our green recovery and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. He is also right that this has the potential to drive a fantastic flourishing and see levelling up across our whole country. We are working to include hydrogen and ensure that it plays a key part in the green recovery and our levelling-up ambitions.

Transport

George Freeman Excerpts
Monday 10th February 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Ministerial Corrections
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Feryal Clark Portrait Feryal Clark (Enfield North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11. What recent assessment he has made of trends in the number of journeys taken by (a) foot and (b) bicycle.

George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (George Freeman)
- Hansard - -

As the Minister for the future of transport, I am committed both to creating a framework for UK leadership in transport technology and innovation and to bolder measures for place-based cleaner, greener and healthier transport and decarbonisation. I am delighted that, as a result of the £2 billion that we invested during the previous Parliament, we have seen a 13% increase in cycling and walking, and we are committed to a 100% increase over this Parliament.

Feryal Clark Portrait Feryal Clark
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister will be aware that transport accounts for a higher share of overall emissions than any other sector, so helping people to drive less and cycle more is crucial to tackling the climate crisis. We currently spent £7 per head on cycling infrastructure, but the Walking and Cycling Alliance recommends that we should be spending £17 per head on cycling infrastructure if we are serious about improving cycling. He will be aware that the Conservatives’ pledge to spend £350 million on cycling infrastructure actually reduced that spend to £1.18—[Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I call the Minister.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

As the new Minister for the decarbonisation of transport, I can say that the Government are absolutely committed to this, and we have a cycling Prime Minister who is committed to it. We have announced £350 million for cycling infrastructure. As I have said, we are completely committed over this Parliament to doubling the number of people cycling and walking.

[Official Report, 30 January 2020, Vol. 670, c. 917.]

Letter from George Freeman:

Errors have been identified in my responses to the hon. Member for Enfield North (Feryal Clark).

The correct responses should have been:

George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (George Freeman)
- Hansard - -

As the Minister for the future of transport, I am committed both to creating a framework for UK leadership in transport technology and innovation and to bolder measures for place-based cleaner, greener and healthier transport and decarbonisation. I am delighted that, as a result of the £2 billion that we invested during the previous Parliament, we have seen a 16% increase in walking since 2015 and a 22% increase in cycling since 2013, and we are committed to a 100% increase in cycling over this Parliament.

[Official Report, 30 January 2020, Vol. 670, c. 917.]

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

As the new Minister for the decarbonisation of transport, I can say that the Government are absolutely committed to this, and we have a cycling Prime Minister who is committed to it. We have announced £350 million for cycling infrastructure. As I have said, we are completely committed over this Parliament to doubling cycling and increasing walking.

Transport

George Freeman Excerpts
Wednesday 5th February 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (George Freeman)
- Hansard - -

It is a great pleasure to close this debate on transport emissions and decarbonisation as the Government’s first ever Minister for the decarbonisation of transport. I want to begin, however, by saying that while we have been in this debate there has been an accident in Turkey. A passenger plane has skidded off a runway and there are reports of injuries. I know the whole House’s thoughts will be with those affected.

There have been many valuable contributions this afternoon. I cannot go through them all in the limited time available, but I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Tahir Ali) on his maiden speech. He talked powerfully about Kashmir and apprenticeships. I know more about one than the other, although I hitch- hiked through Kashmir 30 years ago and I recognise the beauty of the place he described. I also want to highlight the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), and to congratulate him on becoming Chair of the Transport Committee, and the speech by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), who has been running a powerful campaign on all-lane running on the M1, on which one of her constituents was killed. I thank her for the comments she made the other day in the Westminster Hall debate, which the Secretary State and I are taking very seriously.

My right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), the former Secretary of State for Education, spoke powerfully about the importance of pursuing the electrification and decarbonisation agenda in a way that goes with the grain of everyday travel to work, families and the realities of getting around our country, particularly in the last mile.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson) raised the important issue of Heathrow. Whatever happens at Heathrow, we are committed to making sure that it does not damage our commitment to our climate change obligations. In response to the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands), the SNP spokesman, I should make it clear that the UK Government want to support Scotland in its decarbonisation agenda. That is one reason why I am looking at hydrogen, which is a particular strength in the Scottish economy.

As Minister for the decarbonisation of transport, my brief, which has been worked through with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, is to dramatically accelerate the pace of progress on decarbonisation in transport, but I also look after disconnection and digitalisation. The two are connected. We must do more to tackle the disconnection of people and places left behind, the clusters held back, and the disconnection between agencies, not least those with responsibility for decarbonisation. The digitalisation of our transport networks—particularly the railways, but also the buses—can play a huge part in decarbonising our transport system and making it easier for passengers to make that modal shift.

The Prime Minister yesterday set out our groundbreaking commitment to be the first nation to ban diesel and hybrid cars after 2035, as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change. I am surprised we have not had more of a response and welcome for that from Opposition Members. They asked us to do it, and we have done it. It is a key step in tackling transport emissions and builds on our £1.5 billion investment in ultra low emission vehicles and our £400 million investment in charging infrastructure announced since the new Prime Minister and the Government took office.

We are looking across all modes of transport. On aviation, we have already committed to producing an aviation strategy looking to 2050 and beyond. We have made it clear that Heathrow expansion must meet strict criteria on air quality and noise and will not be allowed to materially affect the Government’s ability to meet our climate change obligations. On shipping, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Maritime Minister for launching our first clean maritime plan. The UK is one of the first countries to publish a domestic strategy to reduce shipping emissions—invisible to many but none the less hugely significant globally, particularly for this maritime nation. This followed the UK’s crucial role in the agreement of the International Maritime Organisation’s first strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. On rail, we have committed to getting rid of all diesel trains on the rail network by 2040, and we are looking at electrification and at hydrogen trains in the peripheral areas not likely to be electrified.

We will, however, go much further and faster than even this. I am clear that we want to make Brexit the moment when we step up to our global responsibilities to lead in the decarbonisation of transport and the growth of a green economy. That is why I am working with the Secretary of State on our first ever comprehensive transport decarbonisation plan, which Opposition Members might be interested to hear about, and which we will publish shortly. It will set out a groundbreaking approach to all modes, explaining how road, rail, shipping and aviation can reach net zero.

We will take a place-based approach, looking at the dirtiest motorway junctions, railway stations, ports and airports, and ensuring that everyone has a target that can be met. We want to establish the first ever digital metric for emissions per passenger per kilometre, and, using that metric, to drive “red, amber, green” digital mapping of emissions around the country. We are significantly increasing our research and development science budget, particularly in relation to hydrogen, biofuels and electric planes, to ensure that we have the technology that will help us in carbon budgets 5 and 6.

I also want to highlight the power of data and digital, which has traditionally been overlooked in this sector, but which I believe has a powerful role to play in harnessing our digital economy to ensure that we map and measure properly and empower consumers, through their phones and their local communities, to make the choices that will contribute to the driving down of emissions. I ask Members to imagine their Citymapper as a green carbon route-mapper, giving them points and allowing them to make informed choices about routes and how they can reduce carbon emissions. We can lead the digitalisation, as well as the place-based choices, that will drive modal shift.

I understand that behavioural change alone is not enough, which is why we are significantly increasing our R&D and technology spending. I am launching the first ever Department of Transport research strategy, and a list of priorities for the budget period is being prepared at this moment. We shall be considering hydrogen, biofuels and electric planes.

My aim in this decarb plan is to ensure that this country leads in both the policies and the science and technology to drive the decarbonisation of transport. Our new future transport strategy sets out a comprehensive plan to do two key things. The first is to make the UK a world leader in the testing, development and financing of innovation in transport, because it is an industrial strategy for global UK leadership. Secondly, it is a strategy for local, healthy, place-based neighbourhood choice to make it easier for households, families, communities and councils to drive the modal shift that we need. We believe that by doing both, we can get on track to hit carbon budgets 5 and 6.

I know that time is short: I have no more than 40 seconds left. Let me end by saying this. A number of colleagues have spoken about cycling, and we have committed £2.5 billion in this investment round and in this Parliament to double it. We have invested a further £200 million in buses, we have a £2 billion programme for decarbonisation, and there is £400 million for electric vehicle charging and another £400 million for hydrogen.

We are acting fast to repair decades of neglect. It is all very well for Opposition Members to laugh, but I do not remember their being able to set out such a record after 13 years in office. We have a grip on this issue. In view of the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow later this year, COP26, let me make very clear that this Government get it. We are also absolutely committed to making clear at that conference that we will make Brexit the moment at which we inspire a new generation, lead globally, and do that most Conservative thing of all, which is to leave our environment in a better condition than the one in which we found it.

Question put.

Net Zero Targets and Decarbonising Transport

George Freeman Excerpts
Tuesday 4th February 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (George Freeman)
- Hansard - -

May I say what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Nokes? In the time available, I shall do my best to set out the Government’s strategy and to deal with the many points that were raised.

First, I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) for calling this debate on the importance of decarbonising the transport sector. As the first Minister for the decarbonisation of transport, I welcome this opportunity and the many contributions from Members from, I think, all parties in the House. We have seen quite a lot of expertise, including from the former Chair of the Transport Committee, the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), and I have heard an awful lot with which we agree, including on the scale of the challenge of global climate change and the imperative of gripping transport decarbonisation now. There was an important point about avoiding climate anxiety while stressing the urgency of the situation. We do not want to depress people, particularly the young, by making out that this task is impossible.

We also heard about the real strides that we have made as a country and the need for the transport sector now to lean in and show the leadership that the energy sector has shown. I was particularly interested in the points that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire made about behavioural insights and understanding the real barriers to EV uptake and modal shift—indeed, we are putting a lot of emphasis on that in the strategy—and about the need for a smooth evolution of the support framework.

As the first Minister for the future of transport, focusing on decarbonisation, digitalisation and disconnection, I, with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, am absolutely determined that we will take an integrated approach. That means putting people and places—neighbourhoods—at the heart of the vision for transport, looking at what the transport sector needs to do to put people and places first and looking at our research and development programme across Government to ensure that we are backing the right innovations in technologies to support future green transport. To that end, we have established in the DFT a new directorate for the future of transport, which has seven workstreams and seven directors, dealing with R&D, finance, place, data, regulation, decarbonisation and the importance of behavioural insights as well of ensuring that we go with the grain of people’s aspirations for their families and their constituencies.

I do not want to take up too much time agreeing with everyone on the scale of the crisis. We have only to look to what has been happening in the past few months around the world—to Australia, to our own floods and to the rate of polar ice melt and the rising sea levels—to know that this is the defining global challenge of our generation. I can feel in this Chamber the appetite across the parties to show the electorate in this country, after the divisions of the past few years, that we are united in ensuring that we tackle it.

Let there be no doubt that this Government are 100% committed to leading—not just delivering but leading —and therefore we must accelerate our action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid longer-lasting consequences. That will mean reducing car dependency and building lower car dependency into the new houses that we are building, and that is why I was delighted last week to announce on the east-west arc, for example, that we are focusing on rail links to the new housing.

The decisions that we make will affect the future of the planet for generations to come. This is urgent. I am delighted that, as I am speaking, the Prime Minister is sitting down having just given his keynote speech defining how important this is for the Government. We will have to show new models of leadership globally, and that is why hosting COP this November is vital.

I will just take this opportunity to say that since Mrs Thatcher was, famously, the first western leader to warn of the pace of this back in the 1980s, we saw a few decades of quite slow progress until the last decade. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), David Cameron and Nick Clegg for putting together a consensus that we needed to act 10 years ago.

The Climate Change Act 2008 was the first of its kind in the world and made the UK the first country to have legally binding long-term emissions reduction targets, and we should be proud of that. Since 2000, we have decarbonised our economy faster than any other G20 country. Last year, with support from this House, we became the first major economy to set a legally binding target to achieve net zero emissions from across the UK economy by 2050. That will end our contribution to global climate change, but it does not mean the end of prosperity. I am equally proud that we have created more than 400,000 jobs in this sector. We need to be clear that green growth is more sustainable, resilient and globally exportable, and creates more opportunities for the next generation of people in this country.

Between 1990 and 2017, we reduced emissions by more than 40% while growing our economy by more than two thirds. Green growth works. However, we are not complacent—

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

I will not, just because I am very short of time to respond to the debate.

Delivering net zero will require genuine transformation of our economy and society, including our homes, transport systems and businesses. Although challenging, it offers tremendous social and economic opportunity, but we will have to go further and faster to build on our track record, with transport front and centre.

I shall list briefly the things that we have done. This is a very significant demonstration of leadership. Our £1.5 billion ultra low emission vehicle programme is the envy of the world. We have just announced the £400 million charging infrastructure fund, which will see thousands more electric vehicle charge points installed across the UK, both superfast chargers at motorway service stations and domestic chargers. The first £70 million of that will create another 3,000 rapid charge points. With the private sector, we are on track to deliver £1 billion for charging infrastructure. I am genuinely delighted that the Prime Minister has this morning announced the Government’s intention to bring forward the ban on petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans to 2035, in line with the Committee on Climate Change’s advice.

On shipping, we have the clean maritime plan. On rail, we have set the ambition to remove all diesel-only trains from the network. On aviation, we have helped to lead the world in setting up that first and seminal international agreement for emissions reduction, and here in the UK we are investing £1.5 billion in future aviation technology. Yesterday, I visited the E-Fan X, a partnership between Rolls-Royce and Airbus at Cranfield pioneering the first electric plane.

We will have to invest in science and technology longer term, as well as modal shift for healthier and happier places short term, and to that end I will shortly be announcing with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State our first ever transport decarbonisation plan. That will set out for the first time an approach for each mode—road, rail, shipping and aviation—and an approach by place. We want to look at the worst motorway junctions and railway stations, and we want to use digital tools to help to track standard emissions per passenger kilometre. And there will be a plan for science and R&D investment longer term, including for important technologies in areas such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage—there is a whole range of technologies that can help us to drive both the modal shift and the emissions reduction.

This is about harnessing the power of our science and innovation and our digital economy to help lead the world in how to empower today’s travellers, passengers, drivers and households to make green choices. Imagine the power of a green Citymapper that will allow people to choose low-emission journeys and then reward them. That is very powerful and something that we need to look at.

Crucially, this will not all be done by top-down diktat from central Government; it will require—this is one reason why I welcome it—a bold new deal of devolution with towns and cities, and so I am in the process of working round all the Mayors of combined authorities.

We are short of time. Let me close by saying that if we are to achieve this objective, which we are determined to do, it will require not just science and not just devolution for modal shift; it will require, I suggest, a pan-Government approach on a par with that which we took in the build-up to the Olympics—a genuine decarbonisation olympiad, which will need to happen on a cross-party basis and inspire the next generation with the belief that we can do it.

Perhaps, with their permission, I can write to the hon. Members who raised specific questions with the detailed answers that I have written out but have no time to read out now.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered net zero targets and decarbonising transport.

Oral Answers to Questions

George Freeman Excerpts
Thursday 30th January 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10. What recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of proposals for an Oxford-Cambridge expressway.

George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (George Freeman)
- Hansard - -

The Government are completely committed to the east-west innovation corridor, the arc, and the Varsity line—one of the most exciting pieces of corridor infrastructure in the country. We are committed to the rail link, and, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced, we are looking closely at the business and sustainability case of the expressway.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was pleased to hear the Minister reconfirm that a review will take place. Of course, that was finally agreed to in the heat of the election campaign, perhaps because of concerns that were heard about the expressway. It would be very helpful to understand the parameters of that review: when will it be taking place; who will be involved; and will local authorities and groups such as the No Expressway Group be invited? We really need to know about this if that promise of a review is to be a reality.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

I am delighted to say that we are listening to all the representations that we have received. There will be an announcement coming very shortly. Let me reiterate that this is about our commitment to sustainable and integrated public transport with housing. That corridor is a vital housing and growth corridor and we want to make sure that it is sustainable transport that works for the benefit of the people who live there.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I advise Members that their questions should be linked to the main question? If a certain area is specified, your questions are meant to be about that area. You cannot just have a free for all. Minister, if you can pick something out of that, please do so.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

At a stretch, Mr Speaker, I think that Buckinghamshire touches the east-west corridor. I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to look at a place-based solution for sustainable housing and transport.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Martin Tugwell of England’s Economic Heartland sub-national transport body described the expressway as a 20th century solution to a 21st century challenge. Is it not absolutely clear that the real answer is a public railway, an electrified railway, with an interchange with HS2?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is bowling outside my off stump, but he knows that we are deeply committed to rail, to connectivity, and to sustainable transport. I cannot pre-empt the Secretary of State’s announcement on the expressway, but let me be very clear: we are committed to sustainable integration of housing with public transport, and that rail link is an absolute priority.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My constituents were very relieved when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State visited Verney Junction during the general election and said that there would be a priority review of the expressway. He gave a commitment that were the expressway to be cancelled, funds would be made available for improvements to existing roads. Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that, should it be cancelled, those funds will be available?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

I am delighted to give an assurance that, were the expressway to be cancelled, we would absolutely recognise that significant investment in other and even more important road links in that corridor would be needed.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

Feryal Clark Portrait Feryal Clark (Enfield North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11. What recent assessment he has made of trends in the number of journeys taken by (a) foot and (b) bicycle.

George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (George Freeman)
- Hansard - -

As the Minister for the future of transport, I am committed both to creating a framework for UK leadership in transport technology and innovation and to bolder measures for place-based cleaner, greener and healthier transport and decarbonisation. I am delighted that, as a result of the £2 billion that we invested during the previous Parliament, we have seen a 13% increase in cycling and walking, and we are committed to a 100% increase over this Parliament.[Official Report, 10 February 2020, Vol. 671, c. 8MC.]

Feryal Clark Portrait Feryal Clark
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister will be aware that transport accounts for a higher share of overall emissions than any other sector, so helping people to drive less and cycle more is crucial to tackling the climate crisis. We currently spent £7 per head on cycling infrastructure, but the Walking and Cycling Alliance recommends that we should be spending £17 per head on cycling infrastructure if we are serious about improving cycling. He will be aware that the Conservatives’ pledge to spend £350 million on cycling infrastructure actually reduced that spend to £1.18—[Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I call the Minister.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

As the new Minister for the decarbonisation of transport, I can say that the Government are absolutely committed to this, and we have a cycling Prime Minister who is committed to it. We have announced £350 million for cycling infrastructure. As I have said, we are completely committed over this Parliament to doubling the number of people cycling and walking.[Official Report, 10 February 2020, Vol. 671, c. 8MC.]

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Walking and cycling have a vital role to play in easing congestion, cutting carbon emissions and helping people lead healthier lives, yet cycling and walking rates are flatlining in this country, and we are a very long way from Dutch or Danish rates. Interestingly, a report from University College London has criticised the Government for approving new housing developments that are dominated by roads and do not take account of pedestrians or cyclists. It found, quite simply, that three quarters of developments should not have been given planning permission because of the lack of safe cycling and walking routes. When will the Government address this important issue?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

Right now—we already are addressing it. We are quite a long way from Denmark in all respects, but we are completely committed to this. It is true that for decades this country has not put cycling and walking at the heart of housing development—that was as true under the Labour Government as it has been over the past 40 years. We are committed to it, through the work we are doing with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, with the housing infrastructure fund and our new single housing infrastructure fund. I am talking to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about how we can ensure that every housing development has proper cycling, walking and public transport integration. If we are to achieve our decarbonisation targets, we have to do this.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Môn) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Cycling is extremely popular in my constituency of Ynys Môn, with its 125 miles of stunning coastline and unspoilt countryside. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Government are committed to doubling cycling by 2025, and what difference does he think the £350 million cycling infrastructure fund will make in achieving that?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is a brilliant advocate for Ynys Môn. I can confirm that commitment, and she is right that it will have a big impact on cycling and walking.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Very complementary to cycling and walking are electric scooters, which are increasingly popular and commonplace in cities across the continent—they have just been legalised in Germany—yet they remain illegal in this country. Can we at last have a review to regularise the situation, because they are environmentally friendly and could make a huge contribution to reducing congestion, and it is a hip and cool thing to do?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

Again, I seem to be a purveyor of good news. My hon. Friend will be delighted to know that as part of our innovation strategy we will shortly be announcing that we want to test scooters as part of a mixed economy for sustainable transport.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

12. What steps his Department is taking to reform the regulation of fares to encourage more people to travel by train.

--- Later in debate ---
Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the fresh new approach of this Front-Bench team. Given the importance of sustainable transport and sustainable housing, do Ministers agree that building low-density housing on greenfield sites is bad for sustainable transport, bad for sustainable housing and bad for our environment, because it is so car-dependent, which is why so many of our constituents object?

George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (George Freeman)
- Hansard - -

I commend my hon. Friend on that point and his “Island Manifesto”, in which he makes that point. We are working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that we move the dial on much better integration of cycling, walking and public transport in new housing.

Daisy Cooper Portrait Daisy Cooper (St Albans) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T6. Many of my constituents have been affected by the redesign of airspace, as many live below the flightpaths in and out of London Luton airport. The Civil Aviation Authority promised a post-implementation review of the changes, and the review of one such route is now overdue by more than two years. What assessment has the Minister made of whether the Civil Aviation Authority is fit for purpose and adequately resourced, and will he meet me and St Albans campaigners to discuss residents’ concerns?

Jackie Doyle-Price Portrait Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yesterday, Highways England published the latest plans for the proposed lower Thames crossing. In that set of plans, the proposal for a Tilbury junction, which would divert HGVs from my constituency road network, has been removed. Does the Minister agree that, if we are going to get a road that the community does not want, it is incumbent on Highways England to ensure that it works for us?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I would be delighted to meet her and the roads Minister, Baroness Vere, who is in the Gallery.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T7. Given that nearly three years have passed since the all-party parliamentary group on taxis laid out the case for reform of legislation governing the taxi and private hire industry, and a year has passed since the Government accepted that case, when can we finally expect them to legislate for the reform we need?

--- Later in debate ---
Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I of course welcome any review of the Oxford to Cambridge expressway, but my constituents are worried that it is going to lead to more delays to improvements on the A34, in particular safety improvements and work on the Lodge Hill junction, which I understand is further delayed. Can the Minister reassure my constituents that there is no way any dither and delay on the Oxford to Cambridge expressway will affect improvements to the A34?

James Grundy Portrait James Grundy (Leigh) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many of my constituents have been waiting for decades to be reconnected to the Liverpool-Manchester line. Will the Minister meet me to discuss restoring Leigh to the national rail network?

--- Later in debate ---
Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State will be aware of the implications of his announcement a few minutes ago about the preferred route of East West Rail for housing growth in the east of my constituency. Will his Department commit to looking once again at realignment of the A1?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend has been active in making representations on this issue, which we hear loud and clear. Following the announcement, I look forward to talking to him, to councils, and to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, about the proper integration of housing, rail, and the A1 junction.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame Morris), I am a little surprised that the Secretary of State did not make a statement about taking back Northern rail into public ownership. It only affects in excess of 15 million people, so it cannot be that important and need a statement from the Secretary of State! The new publicly owned railway will have the same problems of poor infrastructure across the north. We need significant new investment—when will it come?

--- Later in debate ---
Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My constituent, Marjorie Johnson, was badly injured when, as she crossed the road, a mobility scooter hit her full force. Seven months on, injuries to her legs still restrict her mobility. Because the scooter driver was not insured, no action has been taken against him. What will the Secretary of State do about that?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

As part of the regulatory review of future mobility and mobility scooters, I would be delighted to meet the hon. Lady to ensure that the issues involved in that case are properly addressed.

Dartford-Thurrock and Severn Crossings: Accounts

George Freeman Excerpts
Thursday 23rd January 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Written Statements
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (George Freeman)
- Hansard - -

My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) has made the following ministerial statement.

Under section 3 (1) (d) of the Trunk Road Charging Schemes (Bridges and Tunnels) (Keeping of Accounts) (England) Regulations 2003, annual accounts for the Dartford-Thurrock crossing charging scheme and the Severn river crossing charging scheme are published today.

In addition, annual accounts for the now-abolished Severn river crossing toll are released today under section 28 of the Severn Bridges Act 1992. Since there are no longer tolls or charges on the Severn river crossings these accounts will not be produced in the future.

The accounts relate to financial year 2018-19 or 2018 and will be placed in the Library of the House.

Attachments can be viewed online at http://www.parliament.uk /business/publications/written- questionsanswers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-01-23/HCWS56/.

[HCWS56]

All-lane Running Motorways

George Freeman Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd January 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (George Freeman)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Paisley. I am standing in for the Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, who will be watching the debate closely, and I will meet her afterwards. Let me congratulate and thank the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) for raising this issue. I agree that it merits a bigger debate. The participation of colleagues across the House signals the strength of feeling.

Let me start by acknowledging the tragedy, pain and trauma suffered by the families of all those who have lost their lives on our roads—especially Jason Mercer, whose family are in the Gallery, and Dev Naran—and particularly, in the context of this debate, on our smart motorways. It is no good Ministers saying that all roads are safe; people need to feel safe and be safe. We need to ensure that safety remains our No. 1 priority. We accept there is a problem here. The Secretary of State is, as we speak, putting the finishing touches on a serious package of measures to tackle it. I cannot and will not pre-empt that, but I will deal with a number of points that were raised.

I would not be doing my job if I did not start by reminding everyone that safety is our No. 1 priority. Highways England’s objective in implementing smart motorways is to ensure that they are as safe as the pre-smart motorway network, which is already the safest bit of the road network, and ultimately safer. We are committed to developing an increasingly safe road network, and I am alarmed that the safety statistics showed a slight increase last year. I take the point my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) made about drilling down into that data, which I will raise with Baroness Vere.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What the Minister has said is interesting, but given all he has heard, does he accept that smart motorways, or all-lane running—whichever he wants to call it—are as safe as building an extra lane and having a permanent hard shoulder?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

That is one of the precise questions that the Secretary of State is looking at. I do not want to pre-empt that work, but I absolutely accept the hon. Gentleman’s reason for asking that important question.

Highways England is constantly monitoring, and it has introduced a number of measures. This is ongoing work. It is not something we think is done and dusted; it is live as we speak. The truth is that, for anyone involved, one accident is one too many. I want to ensure that no one ever dies in this way again, and that the legacy of the people who have died is that that sort of accident, and the situation in which it occurred, cannot happen again. That is why the Secretary of State announced an evidence stocktake soon after taking office. He has called in all the evidence and data, and he is looking at a package of measures to deal with this issue, which will be announced imminently. It would be sensible if, following the debate, we quickly reconvened the all-party group on road safety. Perhaps we might go further and create a taskforce for all colleagues who are interested in this issue, so we can listen to their concerns and ensure that that work is fed directly in.

I hope my hon. Friends and colleagues on the Opposition Benches understand that I cannot pre-empt the Secretary of State’s announcement, but let me make one or two key points in response to those that were raised. It is true that the principal rationale for smart motorways is to increase capacity, reduce congestion and reduce pollution. There are environmental benefits to ensuring that we maximise the use of existing motorways rather than building new motorway capacity, but there are real issues about awareness, information, the positioning of refuges, rescue, vehicle monitoring, and the safety of vehicles re-entering the highway. All those issues have to be got right, and that is why I am responding in the way I am.

Smart motorways have increased capacity. Since we introduced the scheme, more than 1 billion journeys have been made over the 250-mile network of smart motorways. I do not want people to think this is a very small patch of malfunctioning motorway; it is extensive, and over the last 15 years, millions of people have driven up smart motorways.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This debate is about all-lane running, not smart motorways. It actually is about a very small stretch. Please, Minister, do not just focus on smart motorways and how wonderful the M25 is. We get that. We are talking about all-lane running, which is where we do not have investment.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

I understand. I am setting the context, because I think there is quite a lot of public misunderstanding about what smart motorways are. I am short of time and I am keen to get to the end of my speech if I can.

The conversion of the hard shoulder to a running lane is a key feature of capacity management, and we avoid having to build more motorways when we can increase the capacity of existing ones. I totally accept that there are real issues, which the hon. Lady raised, not least of which are refuge placement and ensuring that we have full CCTV coverage so we are able properly and quickly to monitor vehicles that are in trouble and ensure that they are dealt with properly. The scheme has been running since 2014. To the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford, there is a lot of data that we ought to be able to draw on, and we are drawing on it in this review.

It is worth reflecting that the hard shoulder on a traditional motorway has never been deemed a safe place to stop. One of the problems is that, traditionally, people have seen the rescue telephones and thought of it as a safe place to stop, find facilities and make a phone call. It is not and never has been. One of the things we have struck is a misunderstanding that it is a good place to pull over. It is not. Let me repeat that the hard lane has never been that and is never that. In contrast, there have been no collisions in refuges resulting in fatalities.

In the original pilot on the M42 in 2006, refuges were set very close together, at approximately 500 metres apart. Based on operational insights, further performance data and ongoing monitoring, Highways England moved that to 1,000 metres on all other dynamic hard shoulder running schemes, and then to 2,500 metres on all-lane running schemes. That is one of the things the Secretary of State is looking at.

Highways England undertook a review of operational all-lane running schemes and found no consistent correlation between the number of live-lane stops and the spacing of emergency areas, but I take the point my hon. Friend made about drilling down into that data, and I will ensure that that is done. We and Highways England know that motorists not only need to be safe but need to feel safe and need to know what to do when they are in the dangerous situation of a breakdown or a collision. We need to ensure that everyone has that information properly.

The specification for the maximum spacing of emergency areas on new schemes has been reduced from 1.5 miles, which is about 90 seconds at 60 mph and equivalent to the spacing of lay-bys on sections of A road, to 1 mile, which is about 60 seconds at 60 mph. However, again, we need to look at the data; on particular sections, given the geography of the road area, the spacing might need to be different. Highways England will also install a number of additional emergency refuge areas in locations with the greatest spacing. We need to look at whether there are particular blackspots where we need more refuges.

All emergency areas are fitted with orange surfacing to make them more visible, and better advance signing will give motorists more information about how far away the next one is. I want to go further and ask whether we could use digital technology, which many drivers use for satellite navigation, to ensure that every driver knows when they are in one of these areas, where the refuge is and what they should do. Technology can help us ensure that we avoid the sort of tragedies we have seen.

Identifying a broken-down vehicle is key, and I know that is something my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford has raised. If a driver is unable to reach a place of safety, the regional traffic control centre can and should use the overhead electronic signals to close lanes, display warning messages and slow down approaching traffic, as well as to create an access lane for the emergency services. To reduce response times in setting those signals, Highways England has installed a stopped vehicle detection system on two sections of the M25 and will shortly install one on part of the M3. Again, however, if that is the prerequisite, we need to put it everywhere and ensure that it works properly. Highways England is designing it into all-lane running smart motorway schemes that are currently scheduled, and it is exploring how to provide the same benefits on all existing all-lane running smart motorways. I say that not to suggest that it is an adequate response to the points that were made, but simply to highlight the work that is going on.

Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister will know that when Highways England appeared at the Transport Committee, it confirmed that stopped vehicle detection systems are only 90% effective. What is in place to deal with the other 10%?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
- Hansard - -

That is an excellent point, and it is one of the issues the Secretary of State will be looking at in his work.

In the remaining seconds, I want to touch on reports that the AA has said it will not let its patrols stop in live lanes. That is concerning, because we need the support of all vehicle rescue operators. It is worth saying they are never expected to work in a live lane on any motorway unless the scene has been made safe by police officers. That has always been the situation. Highways England has developed guidance on safe recovery with the recovery industry, and it has put in place a whole series of measures, such as electronic signs, variable speed limits and red X signals. Regional control centres and on-road traffic officers can now support vehicles leaving an emergency area. Again, I am not suggesting that is adequate; more needs to be done to ensure that this is working properly.

Red X lane enforcement is long standing. It has been in use since the system was introduced in 2006, and Highways England, in partnership with the police, has issued more than 180,000 formal warning letters to drivers identified as having wrongly used the hard shoulder at a number of smart motorway locations. That number must come down. The aim should be to ensure that nobody drives in the wrong lane at the wrong time, rather than to issue letters to warn them. We need faster progress on that. We have brought in legislation to allow automated detection of red X offences using camera equipment and to enable the police to prosecute, but, again, that should be the last line and something we hope never to have to do. We need to ensure that those incidents do not happen. There have been major public information campaigns, which I do not have time to list in detail.

Let me conclude by saying, in the spirit of the debate, that I am keen to work with the Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, to follow up with colleagues on both sides of the House and look at whether we might set up a taskforce to ensure that their insights can be fed in, and to work with the Secretary of State to ensure that the package he announces is adequate for all of us who use the motorways and represent drivers. I want to ensure that the deaths of Jason, Dev and the others were not in vain, and that their legacy is real improvement so everyone knows these routes are safe.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).