Integrated Rail Plan: North and Midlands

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 18th November 2021

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the improvements in journey times. For example, on Bradford, which has been talked about a great deal, it will be 12 minutes from Bradford to Leeds. What we called for, and what everyone was calling for, is London or south-east-style connectivity, and 12 minutes between two of the north’s great cities as a result of this plan is one of those potential upgrades—not potential; it is one of the upgrades in the plan.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the cost of electrification. A lot of these things seem to cost a lot more in this country. The rail Minister—the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris)—is carrying out an electrification challenge to bring the sector in and challenging it to build on electrification much faster than currently happens. Of course, in addition to electrification, we also have zero-carbon trains, electric trains and hydrogen trains such as the HydroFLEX, which will help to resolve some of the more difficult-to-electrify areas, although, as I say, we have full fat electrification on nearly 400 miles of line as a result of today’s plan.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement, although I did read most of it in a newspaper beforehand.

I do admire the Secretary of State’s hutzpah for the most bullish U-turn I have yet seen in this place. He talks of Beeching reversal; this is nothing but an HS2 reversal. Bit by bit, HS2 and its grand vision for a rail network that might actually belong in the 21st century rather than in the 19th century is being salami-sliced until all that is left is a Birmingham to London shuttle with a few token services to Manchester, benefiting few, but costing us all.

Perhaps the Secretary of State should ask for some tips from the French Government, whose high-speed rail network is now 2,800 km long, or from the Germans, who have over 3,000 km. Denmark is building high-speed rail to link with Germany’s network, including an 11-mile tunnel under the Baltic sea. Meanwhile, the UK cannot even manage linking itself.

On electrification, the 2015 manifesto promised electrification to Windermere, south Wales and the midlands, and they were ditched, so forgive me if we are sceptical about today’s promises not meeting the same fate. For a country that started the railway age and produced Brunel, Stephenson and Joseph Locke, England is now badly served by its transport leadership—a leadership that no number of glossy reports and reviews can paper over.

Can I ask the Secretary of State what implications this will have for Barnett consequentials for both Wales and Scotland? Will Wales now receive its fair share of funding if HS2 money is being redeployed elsewhere? Can he confirm that Barnett will also apply to Scotland’s funding? Given that the Scottish Government are miles ahead of the UK on decarbonisation, electrification and active travel, at least we know something useful will be done with that cash.

Perhaps it is time that levelling up applied to the DFT. Move the Department up to Newcastle, Carlisle or Doncaster, and quickly find out at what level the rest of England operates when given a shoestring to run a public transport network that is in the 21st century in theory only. Experiencing the third class network the north of England is expected to endure every day as compared with that in Greater London might sharpen a few minds in the DFT as to where their priorities lie in the future.

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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As the hon. Member knows, the Treasury is going to Darlington and the DFT has actually gone to Leeds and Birmingham. We already have 70 staff up at our Leeds office, and they will be delighted to be able to travel around much faster as a result of this plan today.

I should mention that the plan involves £12.8 billion of upgrade of the eastern core. This is upgrading the east coast main line, digital signalling and the like. We are not near capacity on those routes yet. The £12.8 billion will help with the journey up the east coast. Of course, the plan today also confirms the west coast update—the HS2 part of it rather—meaning that journeys to Scotland will be a great deal faster as a result. There are lots of benefits, when it comes to Scotland, from bringing these journey times way down as a result of this investment in HS2, and this plan today delivers on that.

International Travel

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Monday 20th September 2021

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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My hon. Friend is an excellent Chair of the Select Committee on Transport—always tough, but fair. He has rightly pointed out that there is likely to be a big expansion in the amount of transatlantic and other aviation. Things such as the pre-departure test form will be greatly simplified by not having to prove a pre-departure test at check-in. On the other side, coming back into the UK, it is Border Force that runs those services. It has spent a lot of time over the summer integrating pre-departure tests, vaccine status and other information into its e-gates. It is now trying to incorporate that. I will certainly be reflecting his comments in discussions with the Home Office, which runs Border Force and will want to make things as smooth as possible as the numbers pick up.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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For months, the sector, airlines, airports, unions and politicians from all parts of the House have called for an extension of furlough, which ends in just 10 days’ time, having essentially given up on the sector-specific support deal promised by the Secretary of State and the Chancellor. The Government again refused to listen, but, miraculously and coincidentally, the scientific evidence arrived to allow the UK Government to relax the rules just four days later. Will the Secretary of State outline what clinical advice he has received on removing pre-departure PCR tests and on the change to lateral flow testing from PCR testing on day two?

Testing international travellers before and after travel is an important part of Scotland’s border health surveillance to minimise the risk of importing variants of concern. The Scottish Government, and indeed the Welsh Government, want to maintain a four-nations approach to international travel restrictions, but they will need to consider carefully the risks associated with the proposed changes to testing before aligning with the UK Government. The First Minister will provide a further covid update to the Scottish Parliament later this week.

The Scottish Government’s changes, with sensible safeguards built in, recognise the success of the vaccination programme and will provide a welcome boost to Scottish tourism. A four-nations approach is obviously preferable, not least because Scottish travellers, as we have seen, will travel down to English airports to fly, and that may affect routes and could further job losses at airports such as Glasgow airport in my constituency. However, the Scottish Government are absolutely right to look at the evidence in detail before making such an important decision.

Moreover, the last time that there was a divergence in policy, the UK Government went against the scientific advice that the Scottish Government followed, and the result was the importation of the delta variant with huge numbers of passengers arriving in England from India. In many cases, they went on to Scotland. If there is to be a divergence, however temporary, will the Secretary of State work with airports in England and the Scottish Government to ensure that the correct checks are carried out on passenger arrival paperwork, so that passengers cannot arrive in England to travel on to Scotland to circumvent the different rules?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I think it would be wrong not at least to acknowledge that the delta variant has got to every single country in the world—including Australia, which does not allow its own citizens to come back freely into the country, even with quarantine. By throwing that in, the hon. Gentleman rather weakened the rest of his argument. The Joint Biosecurity Centre is so called because it works with the devolved Administrations. The chief medical officers work together as part of that set up and, as he surely must know, provide us with the same advice to consider.

The hon. Gentleman’s first point was on the furlough scheme, which has been of enormous assistance to aviation everywhere, including in Scotland. The very best help we could give to Scottish aviation workers and others would be to stop curtailing aviation and travel industries in the recovery. Those are not my words. Edinburgh airport said that the Scottish Government’s

“decision to diverge yet again…further”

curtails

“Scotland’s aviation and travel industries in their recovery”.

It leaves travel agents in Scotland, led by LAH Travel’s Linda Hill Miller, saying that it will be a “very bleak winter” in Scotland if the policy does not shift.

HGV Driver Shortages

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Monday 13th September 2021

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Are you giving up the day job?

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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God help us all, Mr Speaker, if that comes to pass.

Ministers are said to be worried about Christmas, and they should be, but the crisis is upon us now, not in three months’ time. I wrote to the Secretary of State in spring urging action, but there has been nothing until now. The impact of Brexit on daily life is becoming clear, so does he regret the number of times that Members of his party said that the prospect of bare supermarket shelves post Brexit was some baseless “Project Fear”?

The loosening of regulation must not be allowed to put safety at risk. I have been contacted by training providers in my constituency that are facing overnight financial ruin. They were given no notice, no consultation and no explanation of what the Secretary of State and his Department are proposing on trailers and on B+E tests. My constituent has seen his full list of bookings until the end of the year cancelled. How will training firms going out of business or staff being made redundant due to a lack of work help when the longer-term problems of driver recruitment, retention and drivers’ facilities still have not been addressed?

Finally, the Government must listen to the Road Haulage Association, the Food and Drink Federation and pretty much everyone else outside the Department for Transport, and grant temporary visas for HGV drivers. Is the Secretary of State lobbying the Home Office for that—yes or no?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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Let me first stress that we have been working on the issue for a very long time. In fact, I think it was in my first meeting when I became Secretary of State—certainly my first meeting with the Road Haulage Association—when I granted the RHA £1 million for the Road to Logistics fund to bring in ex-forces and those who have been unemployed for a long time. That was the very first thing I did, more than two years ago. It is important to recognise that we had been taking action on this for a long time, and, indeed, before many others started to look at the situation. This is a long-term shortage in the marketplace.

The hon. Gentleman expresses legitimate concerns about the role now for those carrying out driver training. We are working to introduce an industry-led accreditation scheme, which could help the 16 million drivers who do not currently require trailer training to have some form of accreditation—perhaps leading to lower insurance and the rest of it—before trailing trailers. We very much hope to help, including firms in his constituency, by expanding the skills base for people driving in all its forms.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 9th September 2021

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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The penny has finally dropped. For the first time the Government finally seem to understand the scale of the problem, and they seem rattled. This was the reaction of the industry to expediting the testing process, which we welcome. However, it is nowhere near enough, and it will take at least two years to fill the gap, if they attract enough drivers. Why then, as I asked the Secretary of State when I wrote to him back in June, can he not convince the Home Office to put HGV drivers on the shortage occupation list for a temporary period? This is not just about cancelling Christmas; shelves lie empty right now.

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I do agree that this is an urgent measure. That is why, before anybody else was talking about it, we were already acting—carrying out these consultations, putting in place these measures—and we have 50% more people being tested. I hear his call for more immigration to resolve the problem, but we do have to stand on our own two feet as the United Kingdom. There are a lot of people coming off furlough, and I look forward to those people getting jobs.

Transport Decarbonisation

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Wednesday 14th July 2021

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I am afraid that we have been here before a couple of times of late, and I understand the difficulty for the hon. Gentleman. He freely acknowledges that he has not actually seen or read this document, yet he has a stream of criticism for what is inside it, which I find extraordinary. Rather than taking in what I thought was a quite detailed statement, so that he could hear all the various different points, instead he read from the pre-ordained script, which claimed that none of the things that we were doing was really happening.

Let me remind the House, therefore, what has actually happened. The hon. Gentleman says he does not think we have been moving fast enough. Let us just check the record. While Labour was in power, it delivered 63 miles of electrified track. In just the last three years, under this Government, we have done 700 miles. He points to a lack of charging, although I announced at the Dispatch Box a couple of weeks ago—and I commented on this in my speech—that there are 25,000 public chargers.

I should also say that there are a couple of hundred thousand private chargers on top of that. I am sorry to hear that Wigan’s Labour council does not have enough charging points; I will ensure that I contact the council this afternoon, on the hon. Gentleman’s behalf, to make sure that it applies for the grants that are available so that we can sort that out for residents in Labour Wigan forthwith.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned zero emission vehicle mandates; I am pleased that it sounds as though there is some agreement on them. The decarbonisation plan discusses mandates and we have launched a consultation today. I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree that we cannot simply spring something as important as a zero emission mandate on the entire sector; we have to consult the sector first, so that consultation is being launched today.

Another nine consultations, technical documents or outcomes from consultations are being launched today alongside the plan, which I again invite the hon. Gentleman to read. I accept that he will not have done so at this time, but I think he will find that a lot of his concerns and criticisms are covered. For example, he asked where the 4,000 buses are; I have some good news for him, and it is not just that when one comes along there are three: there are 900 buses in production right now, and 50 are already on the road.[Official Report, 20 July 2021, Vol. 699, c. 5MC.] That puts us easily on track to meet our target to have 4,000 in production by the end of this Parliament. That is good news for the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Jet Zero Council, and he is absolutely right. I make no apology for the Government meeting with academia and the sector. We have had our third main Jet Zero Council meeting and there have been dozens of sub-meetings of the technical working groups. What I hear is that the Opposition do not understand. Thanks to our Jet Zero Council work, we have already flown the world’s first hydrogen aircraft in this country. But it is not good enough for them; they still think we are not doing anything. I have some good news for the hon. Gentleman: that aircraft is being upsized to a 19 or 20-seater aircraft that will be flown shortly, so he will not have to wait long for more news on that front, along with the electrification of aircraft with the likes of Rolls-Royce and others.

I heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say about increasing rail usage, particularly coming out of the pandemic—it is a carbon-friendly way to travel—and I heard his party’s previous criticisms of the flexible season ticket. His stats, I am sure inadvertently, are completely dodgy. They failed to take into account the fact that anybody travelling two or three days a week would be at least 20% better off by comparison than if they bought a regular ticket or indeed a season ticket. I saw the hon. Gentleman’s YouTube video on the subject— I invite Members to watch it—and will write to him to explain chapter and verse why he was misquoting stats and information. I am pleased he reminded me of that because it gives me the opportunity to write back to him. For the purposes of clarity, I will ensure that I publish that letter for the whole House so that Members are able to judge the stats for themselves.

Lastly—I know that a lot of Members wish to speak—we are very proud of the transport decarbonisation plan, and I have mentioned the nine or 10 documents that back it up. An incredible level of detail has gone into that work. I ask: where is Labour’s plan? Where are its detailed plans? Where is the technical analysis? Labour has not read our plan and does not have one of its own, but all I ever hear is that Labour is still up for criticising ours.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) [V]
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When I was told that the Secretary of State had sent the final draft plan back because it was not ambitious enough, I harboured hopes that it might well be a serious plan to match the seriousness of our times. It would certainly require investment on a scale to which the Chancellor would not naturally be disposed. Sadly, though, from zero emission cars and buses to rail, maritime, active travel and aviation, the lack of ambition—certainly relative to Scotland—stands out.

Scotland aims to cut car use by 20% by 2030, and we will spend 10% of the transport capital budget on active travel. For the cars that remain, we have twice as many rapid charging points per head, with 60% of them free to use—a proportion three times higher than England’s 20%. Meanwhile, the UK Government have halved the plug-in car grant. Why will the Secretary of State not match Scotland’s ambition on car use? How does he think he will meet his EV targets with poor charging infrastructure and by reducing incentives, and without a scrappage scheme, while a substantial price gap between petrol and diesel cars and zero emission cars remains?

The pledge for 4,000 new buses represents only a 10th of the English fleet. Even now that the ZEBRA—zero emission buses regional area—scheme is finally in place, progress is glacial. By contrast, Scotland plans to remove half its diesel fleet by 2023 and has the equivalent of more than 2,700 buses already on order. Will the Secretary of State confirm when the 4,000 buses will actually be delivered under the current scheme and when the next scheme will begin?

The Secretary of State aims to decarbonise rail in England by 2050, which is 15 years after Scotland aims to do that. Scotland has legged away in a programme of rolling electrification. The Transport Committee recommended a similar programme for England, so will the right hon. Gentleman commit to such a programme matching Scotland’s pace? If so, when will the first schemes be announced?

For decarbonising the maritime sector there is only lip service, but I will try to end with consensus on aviation—something we agree is difficult, and in which hydrogen, alongside sustainable aviation fuels, will play a leading role. Again, Scotland leads the way, with Government investment in decarbonisation programmes and plans for electric and hydrogen test flights, working with partners such as ZeroAvia and Loganair. That is part of our ambition to make the highlands and islands the world’s first zero emission aviation region by 2040. We have a leading position in hydrogen aviation technology, but we must increase investment to ensure we stay that way.

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I am always keen to work across the House, wherever we agree, including on that last point about aviation and, indeed, the number of car chargers in Scotland. That is all good, but I cannot understand why the hon. Gentleman is talking about the success of the car charger roll-out while also being anti-car and saying that he does not want people to use a car, or even electric vehicles that are green. I do not understand how he can be proud of both points at the same time.

My main point is that he comes to the Chamber quite often, either remotely or in person, and he sings the praises of the Scottish Government. I therefore thought I would check the facts for the clarity of the House, and time and again, the SNP Government have missed their own statutory target for reducing emissions. That was not for one or two years; it is now for the third year in a row.

International Travel

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 8th July 2021

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I welcome my right hon. Friend’s question. She is absolutely right. I have been working with the Home Secretary and Border Force on exactly that issue. I should perhaps be a little more specific about where travellers might expect queues. Quite a lot of the checking will be done upstream—in other words, before people board the aircraft, train or boat, at the location from which they are returning. Queues at check-in abroad may, in fact, be the place where those problems most exist. Many airlines are developing systems to further automate that process, but they will be doing quite a complicated job, checking the passenger locator form against the booked test still required on day two and, of course, vaccine status. I think it is fair to warn people who are travelling this summer that it is a process that we have not had to do before. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that it is important that the borders at this end are as smooth as possible. Indeed, a lot of investment is going into automating all that.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement.

I share the concerns of the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), about the lack of transparency in the data, and the Secretary of State’s answers on that were simply not good enough. We need to see more data and more quickly than we are at the moment. Although I welcome the thrust of the statement, I think the Secretary of State is being just a little disingenuous when he said the industry tells him that support is welcome and they need to get flying again. In and of itself, that is of course correct, but what he did not say is that that industry is still crying out for further support, because most of the industry has not had grant support, despite being the hardest hit sector in the economy.

I have said a number of times in the last few weeks that Glasgow Airport in my constituency has lost a third of the workforce that is based on site. That is 2,000 jobs gone locally at the airport and well over another 1,000 jobs beyond the airport that are connected to aviation. The Scottish summer season is already well over two weeks old and by the time this policy kicks in for England, teachers in my area will be back in schools three weeks thereafter, so only a very short window remains. The Government must therefore extend furlough for the sector—no ifs, no buts. Although this announcement will help, the number of passengers will still be significantly down, so the need for a sector-specific support package is still very clear.

From the outset, the Scottish Government have said that caution is required regarding international travel and people should think carefully about travelling abroad, as situations can suddenly change. The Scottish Government will continue to work closely with the other home nations and are cautiously supportive of exploring options for the easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from countries on the amber list, but only if the clinical advice supports it and the systems are in place to ensure the wider safety of the Scottish population.

Rumours have circulated for months about robust Cabinet discussions on international travel, with, among others, the previous Health Secretary, the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster often on one side, and the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Transport on the other. One cannot help but note the change of pace in the changes to international travel now that the new Health Secretary, the right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid), is in place. How can plans for an ambitious return of travel be made if the UK Government’s rush to unlock domestically, with 100,000 cases a day and so on, means that other countries close their borders to UK travellers?

Lastly, as has been said, mask wearing on aircraft and, indeed, all public transport is to most of us a no-brainer. As the Secretary of State did not address the shadow Secretary of State’s question, I will ask it again: will mask wearing on aircraft be compulsory? Will the Secretary of State confirm whether he will continue to wear a mask on all public transport?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I should point out that the change of pace is because we now have a situation in which the majority of adults in the UK are fully vaccinated. That was not the case a month ago, when we postponed step 4; it is the case now. I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that I was in fact already discussing the changes with the previous Health Secretary.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that I omitted to mention masks; I should bring the House up to speed. We will still provide, in guidance, information about mask wearing. We know that it is sensible in more enclosed spaces, and personally I will wear a mask where it is appropriate to do so. The airlines have already said that mask wearing is a condition of carriage in, I think, all the cases that I have seen, and where it is a condition of carriage, I will of course always wear one. On the other hand, if we are talking about being in an empty carriage on a long-distance train for many hours, people will use their common sense, which is something that we on the Government Benches absolutely applaud and agree with. We are pleased to be able to get back to a guidance situation.

The hon. Gentleman is a doughty campaigner for Glasgow airport and often challenges me on these matters; I have to say to him that he might want to look a little bit closer to home. It is only very recently—in June—that the Scottish Government banned Scots from travelling to Manchester. As a direct result, easyJet cancelled new routes that would have connected a whole bunch of Scottish airports. No wonder the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association has said that the Scottish Government’s approach to aviation is sacrificing the industry. I am afraid a lot of the answers the hon. Gentleman is looking for are closer to home. Meanwhile, the UK Government have provided £7 billion of support to the sector. I notice that the opening up announced today has so far yet to be reflected by Scottish Government announcements as well. If the hon. Gentleman really wants to help, he can help to move along the policy in Scotland.

International Travel

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Tuesday 29th June 2021

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I will certainly be very pleased to return to this House with further details as soon as next month. I explained in my opening remarks that there are quite a number of complexities to do with how we treat children and younger people who have not yet had the opportunity to have two vaccinations. Although we will have everybody on a single vaccination, promised by 19 July, there will still be significant numbers who would not be able to travel under that system, so there are a lot of fairness issues to resolve too. However, like my hon. Friend, I share the absolute desire to return international travel as soon as we practically can to something as close as possible to normality, while recognising that it is important that we ensure that variants of concern are properly monitored and not brought into this country. One of the problems that we have is that no other country in the world sequences the genome at the rate that we do, which means that it is sometimes very difficult to tell what is happening in other countries, so we sometimes have to be cautious, but I will return to this House.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) [V]
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Aviation is the hardest-hit sector, according to the Office for National Statistics. One third of the 6,000 jobs based at Glasgow airport and countless more in the supply chain are gone, a proportion that is common in the sector. In business travel, 60% of workers have gone and of those who remain, 80% are on furlough, and that is the key point: hundreds of thousands of jobs have gone while there is a job retention scheme in place.

This is the 36th time I have asked about support for the aviation sector since the start of the pandemic, back in the day when the Secretary of State was boasting of saving Flybe and the Chancellor was promising a sector-specific deal. With many parts of Europe now wary of the UK delta variant outbreak, five bleak winters in a row beckon for the sector. Are the Government finally considering keeping their word on grant support and extending its limited and capped business rates support to at least match the duration of the unlimited cover in Scotland? Crucially, is the Secretary of State lobbying the Treasury to extend furlough for the sector? Finally, does the clinical advice given to the Government fully support these decisions on double vaccines for travellers and travel to amber list countries?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who often speaks up for aviation, given the airport-constituency connection that he has. I point out again that we have provided billions of pounds of support for the aviation sector, including to the Scottish aviation sector, through money that has gone from the furlough programme, for example.

The hon. Gentleman asked a series of questions, and I fear I may have to redirect him in some cases to his own Scottish Government, because I have the Scottish airports constantly on the line to me complaining about the actions of the Scottish Government, who seem to do everything they possibly can to make it harder for airlines and airports to see a route to a recovery. That said, there was a strong degree of work together to bring in the latest changes to the traffic light system.

Britain’s Railways

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 20th May 2021

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I am grateful to the Chair of the Select Committee and I look forward to coming before the Committee on Wednesday. I hope I will get a bit more chance to expand on some of these subjects. When Keith Williams and I were looking at the role of the private sector, we very much looked at what was happening in London with Transport for London: the way the buses, London Overground and the Docklands Light Railway are all run by private enterprises and how they bring something more than would have been available if the state was simply running all those services. The incentives for such enterprises will be to run good, efficient, trains, on time—clean trains, with wi-fi; these are things that passengers want—to carry on innovating and to bring their private ideas and capital, while allowing Great British Railways to set the overall picture. I do not want to disappoint him on the flexi tickets; the 28 days does not refer to 28%, but I can tell him that, fortunately, every ticket will be cheaper than buying a season ticket when people are travelling now, in a more flexible world, perhaps two or three days a week. These tickets will be warmly welcomed by the travelling public, as people start to go back to work.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) [V]
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I, too, thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of the statement. I have to report that, yet again, although there was consultation during the initial review, there has been no discussion of the actual plan with the Scottish Government. As for the so-called “Williams-Shapps” plan, it will be interesting to see how quickly it is renamed the “Williams plan” if it does not work. Although there are elements to be welcomed, I am afraid that it amounts to a real missed opportunity, with the Tories’ continued belief that the private sector knows best and yet more money flowing out of the system and into shareholders’ pockets.

By contrast, the Scottish Government have committed to taking ScotRail into public ownership. Will the Secretary of State confirm that nothing in this plan prevents the Scottish Government from doing so? I am disappointed but wholly unsurprised to see that the advice given by the former Rail Minister Tom Harris to devolve Network Rail to Scotland has been ignored. Moreover, the plan states:

“Dedicated station management teams will be created locally within regional divisions of Great British Railways to manage stations, land and assets.”

Will the Secretary of State confirm whether that results in GBR taking on the management of some Scottish stations and taking it out of ScotRail’s hands? How will the plan to roll station improvement funds into a central accessibility fund affect current relationships between Transport Scotland and the Department for Transport and annual bids for Access for All money? The plan also contains zero mention of international connections and Eurostar, which is a big omission, given the potential collapse of Eurostar. The plan document for GBR contains lots of nice pictures but not a single one has been taken outside England, which is indicative of a plan that fails to recognise the need to devolve more power to the devolved Administrations. Despite all the noise and rhetoric around the Government’s 10-point plan, the document contains just one page out of 116 on rail electrification. It says that the Government will announce further English electrification programmes, but we have been here before and their track record is utterly woeful. So when will this plan be announced? Will passenger service contracts be compulsory?

Lastly, the plan contains little specifically about Scotland. Given that the functions of Network Rail are not being devolved, can the Secretary of State tell us how the operational relationship between the ScotRail Alliance and Transport Scotland and GBR will work? The extension of ministerial control over GBR/Network Rail means that that is likely to become far more complicated.

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

I wish to correct a couple of things that the hon. Gentleman said. There has been extensive discussion with the Scottish Government at official level about all of this, so they have been very much briefed. I am sorry that they have not briefed him along the way, as that would have been helpful. I know that he approaches this subject with tremendous dogma as if our railway lines do not interconnect, but they do, or as if the only way through this in the case of ScotRail is to nationalise it. We just take a much more open view about the best way to run a railway. First, the lines happen to connect England and Scotland together. Secondly, we have said in this White Paper that we are happy not only to have this national body, Great British Railways, involved, but to have competition from the private sector or, indeed, an operator of last resort, the public sector. We just have a much less ideological view of all of this. I think it is about trying to juxtapose his very ideological views with this much more straightforward plan to do what is right for the passenger that is causing him quite a lot of his confusion.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned numerous different issues. For example, he said that, on the international side of things, Eurostar was in trouble. He may not have spotted it, but Eurostar was refinanced just last week. He asked about the transport decarbonisation element of it. He may have missed the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) a moment ago, but the transport decarbonisation plan is referenced in the White Paper, because it is due out very shortly and will tackle those issues in a great deal of additional detail.

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that Great British Railways will carry on running the infrastructure side of things, but there is nothing in the White Paper that reverses or changes the devolution picture: the Scottish Government will carry on running ScotRail as they see fit. None the less, we do have to recognise that we all need to work together. I normally hear him say exactly that, because our constituents need to travel around and they do not really care about all of the insider detail. They just want a railway that works, which is why he should be welcoming Great British Railways and this White Paper today, because we will get a railway that works.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 29th April 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

That is absolutely right. The shipping industry is one of the harder to decarbonise areas of the economy. However, technologies such as hydrogen have a big part to play, so this Government are putting a lot of research and development investment behind hydrogen in particular with a view to shipping. We have just announced the Teesside hydrogen hub, the country’s first, to help develop more of those technologies, and the hon. Gentleman will not be disappointed by our ambition through our transport decarbonisation plan.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As we have heard, the Government are finally, finally inching forward with a fraction of their 4,000 green bus plan, but in Scotland orders have already been placed for the equivalent of 2,720 battery electric buses, with many more to come. At the Transport Committee, Baroness Vere called this investment “brilliant”. Graham Vidler of the Confederation of Passenger Transport also welcomed it, plus the £5 billion equivalent on bus infrastructure, and called the Scottish Government’s commitment to reducing car journeys by 20% by decade’s end a

“big, bold and ambitious target that we would like to see matched in the UK Government’s decarbonisation plan”.

Will you match it, Secretary of State?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

Once again, I am very pleased that the Barnett consequentials ensure that money is available to spend in Scotland. We should welcome the fact that £3 billion is going to buses. The hon. Gentleman mentions the £120 million we have announced for zero-emission buses in 2021-22, which will give many hundreds of buses a start on the production line. We are on target to deliver all 4,000 that we have promised to start building in this Parliament.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is not what the industry says. The gap in ambition is simply startling. The SNP plans to have the majority of fossil fuel buses removed from service by 2023. This Government’s plans represent just one tenth of the English fleet. When we consider that, along with commitments and action on rail decarbonisation with a nationalised ScotRail, increasing the active travel budget to 10% of transport capital, free bikes for children who cannot afford them, interest-free loans for electric cars and free bus travel for under-22s, does the Secretary of State agree that if Scots want that progressive and decarbonised future it has to be both votes SNP next Thursday?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

Funnily enough, I do not agree. It is worth the hon. Gentleman’s Scottish voters understanding that that money is available through the Barnett consequentials. If bus services were as good as is claimed, then it would not be the case that in Dundee bus users were being warned just last November to expect big changes to services, the worst since the 1950s, which would have negative impacts for older people and those dependent on bus services. I do not think it is quite as rosy as he likes to make it sound. This Government in Westminster are committed to decarbonising the whole of the United Kingdom.

National Bus Strategy: England

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Monday 15th March 2021

(10 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me start by thanking the Secretary of State for prior sight of his statement, and by welcoming both the tacit admission that decades of bus deregulation has failed and the long awaited publication of the national bus strategy for England, which the Prime Minister has billed as a revolution. The only problem is that revolutions are usually fairly quick affairs, whereas we have been waiting a year for this strategy and it might take another year for the various consultations to run their course.

Bus services are, of course, devolved, but as I have said many times in this place, the bus manufacturing sector is on its knees—hundreds of jobs have already gone. We are lucky to have three world-class bus manufacturing companies in Switch, Wrightbus and, in particular, Alexander Dennis, but we have yet to see a penny of the £3 billion committed last spring, and in the past 12 months almost no zero-emission buses have been delivered outside London or Scotland. Very shortly, there will be more zero-emission buses in the town of Kilmarnock than anywhere outside London. The Scottish Government have gone on with the job, with their Scottish ultra-low emission bus schemes, which are extremely popular with both operators and manufacturers. With those schemes having shown just how quickly domestic demand for new, green, British-built vehicles can be stimulated in the about six-month lead time for manufacturing, how will the Government ensure that their commitment to 4,000 green buses actually results in new vehicles being delivered this calendar year, not next year or the year after?

The Prime Minister spoke of getting young people on to buses, an aspiration shared by the Scottish Government, who have just committed to providing free bus transport to all under-22s as part of a plan to encourage lifelong public transport habits—that is action, not words. Will the Minister commit to a similar policy in England? Scotland has led the way in transport decarbonisation in the UK, but we must do more, so will he confirm that 100% of the funding provided for the strategy will be Barnettised? Will he put a precise figure and timescale on it?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

I welcome what I think was a warm welcome to the idea of the English bus strategy. With all these things, I like to work in co-operation and make them work for the whole of the United Kingdom. That is why, for example, I put money into dustcarts in Glasgow that are hydrogen-run. I believe there are a dozen of them doing fantastic work and helping to develop the hydrogen economy. It is not quite as straightforward as the hon. Gentleman makes out; we all know that we can produce a hydrogen vehicle, but we also have to produce the hydrogen in a green enough way so that it is not in itself a polluting activity. A whole supply line is required for that, which is why in England I have assigned Teesside as the first hydrogen hub in the country, in order to help bring all those technologies together for all the different forms of transport.

I want to answer one question directly: the Barnett formula is attached to this, and the moneys will flow from that in the normal way.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 28th January 2021

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

I certainly share the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for all things hydrogen, and I think I am right in saying that the UK Government fund a hydrogen bus project in Glasgow.[Official Report, 8 February 2021, Vol. 689, c. 2MC.] He will know that we are also funding a hydrogen train project. In fact, I have ridden on the HydroFLEX train. We have also announced the country’s first hydrogen hub, which happens to be in Teesside. Mr Speaker, given the Prime Minister’s 10-point decarbonisation plan from last month, you will not find a more pro-decarbonisation Government than this one. I look forward to working with the hon. Gentleman on many more measures, including in Scotland.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not know about you, Mr Speaker, but I cannot wait to read the Secretary of State’s speech to Davos. As he very well knows, Scotland is more ambitious in this area and is world leading in its pursuit of rail electrification, with the editor of Rail magazine saying last week that Scotland has made big progress here, all while the major English electrification projects got cancelled by his Department. Moreover, in our electric vehicle industry alone, domestic charge point funding and e-bike loan schemes have also been deemed world leading. When will the UK Government match their climate emergency rhetoric and decarbonise transport and improve transport sustainability?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

The audio was not perfect there, but I got the bit where the hon. Gentleman was saying that he is very enthusiastic about zero carbon and getting to the point where the UK Government are the first major economy in the world to legislate for net zero by 2050. I am pleased that he is so enthusiastic. He will no doubt be backing the UK Government’s plan to get to zero carbon cars, starting with the end of the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. I know that he will be welcoming the enormous sums of money that will have gone right the way across the United Kingdom, which has enabled—credit where credit is due—the Scottish Government to roll out an impressive number of charging stations for electric vehicles. Let us work together to get this job done. It seems that we are better when we do these things together.

--- Later in debate ---
Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

It is tragic that anybody ever dies on our roads, and it is worth recalling that motorways in general are safer than most roads overall. Smart motorways were, and are, an issue that sparked a great deal of interest from me, and as the hon. Gentleman may recall, before he was in post last year I set up a review, a stocktake, which recommended 18 different measures, including spending more than £500 million to put in a whole series of measures to ensure that smart motorways are not just as safe, but safer than conventional motorways. That stocktake is now one year through, and I will soon return to the House to report on its progress. I know there is a lot of interest in that.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the very day that the Prime Minister shamefully sets a terrible example by making a completely unnecessary cross-border campaign trip, which by my reckoning is against the law in Scotland, will the Secretary of State say what steps he is taking to ensure that the impact of border disruptions, which have hammered important Scottish industries such as seafood and fresh food, is reduced, and that hauliers are able to take more return loads than the scarce amount they can take at present?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

The House will know that, through a process called the Brexit operations committee, there were over 180 meetings, which have ensured that, with regard to the routing that those lorries take—typically down to Kent and through the so-called short straits—we have seen no queues at all thanks to that planning. There have been some issues with paperwork. I know that that has impacted Scottish fish. I know that Scottish fishermen are celebrating the fact that they can catch and keep a quarter more—in five and a half years’ time there will be no requirement to give any of it away, subject to the discussions then—and I know that additional money and assistance is going to both the Scottish Government and Scottish fishermen in order to resolve any outstanding problems with paperwork, which I trust will be concluded as quickly as possible.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 3rd December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

Right at the beginning of the pandemic—I can understand if the hon. Gentleman missed it—we published the document “Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge”, which will lead into a transport decarbonisation plan that we will publish by the spring. In that, we will describe the many measures that we are taking to make the UK a global leader in cutting carbonisation and decarbonising the economy, not just through the 2030 pledge but through, for example, introducing 4,000 zero-emission buses, and much else besides.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Transport Secretary was right to reference COP26.

Last year, sales of ultra-low emission vehicles grew by 46% in Scotland—40% faster than in England—in large part due to the enhanced home charging point grant and the interest-free loans, both provided by the Scottish Government and unavailable in England. Does the Secretary of State agree that he too should adopt the success of Scotland’s electric vehicle strategy and learn the lessons that are needed to ensure that England is not being left behind?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman and I share a very keen interest in these matters. I remember that when I got my electric car, 1% of cars sold were electric. The figure now across the UK is 6.5%. There have been tremendous advances in the number of electric charging points available. The £2.8 billion that we pledged at the spending review will help that to happen, with more money going into charge points and into the infrastructure investment as well. I am pleased that Barnett consequentials are being sensibly spent to increase charging in Scotland.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for that response. I should say, for the record, that my household has come down from a two-car household to one car, and we are hoping to switch to an electric car in the new year as well. [Interruption.] It is a bit too far out for an e-bike.

The Prime Minister announced in February that £5 billion was being made available for 4,000 zero-emission buses, which the Secretary of State mentioned, but to date we have not seen much evidence of that money being spent, and jobs continue to haemorrhage in the bus production sector. So how many of the promised 4,000 zero-emission buses have actually been delivered thus far?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to point that out, but he will recall that the pandemic in between has created problems not just for the bus sector but for the entire economy, which has, by necessity, meant that a huge amount of money—hundreds of millions of pounds—has gone into supporting buses operating at all. The pledge for 4,000 buses remains, and £120 million was announced at the spending review to get on with the first several hundred of them.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 17th September 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to his bus review report, which I have read. It is very impressive. We share the ambition to do much of what he has just said. The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive has received a £1.127 million grant, as he will know, and the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority has been allocated £703,614. We are putting our money where our mouth is. We will publish our national bus strategy, and I think he will find that it complements the bus review report that he is behind.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Bus manufacturing is a key industry and companies such as Alexander Dennis, despite being world leading, face huge challenges. The Scottish Government recently announced millions of pounds of funding for ultra low emission vehicles, which is vital not just to the bus industry but to communities and businesses across the country. Will the Secretary of State please accept that our bus industry is teetering on the brink and needs a green bus fund rolled out now, not after Alexander Dennis and other companies like it are gone?

International Travel

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Monday 7th September 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Scottish National party spokesperson, Gavin Newlands, who has two minutes.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, which we also received a minute after he was due to deliver it.

We can see from all the recent data that coronavirus is currently spreading far more rapidly throughout the UK and many parts of Europe than in recent months. As a result the red list of countries from which travellers must quarantine on their return has been increasing steadily in recent weeks. Often the UK’s four Governments have come to the same conclusions on quarantining decisions at the same time. However, Scotland and Wales have occasionally made different decisions, as is their devolved right. Portugal was recently placed on the red list for Scotland and Wales, as it is now experiencing 23.2 cases per 100,000, but the Secretary of State accused the Scottish Government of creating confusion by placing Portugal on the quarantine list and of jumping the gun on Greece. Indeed, he doubled down on this in his statement today. The Scottish and Welsh First Ministers have not criticised him or his Government for their decisions on quarantine, so these are very unfortunate remarks that the Secretary of State should reflect on and perhaps apologise for.

The resurgence of coronavirus has shown that the trouble for the airline and tourism industries will persist for quite some time. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, what further support for the airline industry specifically can the Secretary of State commit to, and will he actually keep his promise to the industry of specific support? If there is a second wave of coronavirus that decimates international travel again, the industry could go back to square one in terms of the pandemic. Does he agree that that makes a strong case for the argument that targeted extensions of the furlough scheme are necessary?

Further to the point that the Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), made, may I push the Secretary of State on the timeline for this aviation traveller quarantine testing programme? When will he bring that back to the House by? Finally, nobody travels more internationally than cabin crew and pilots, and recent weeks have seen many loyal British Airways cabin crew out of a job having refused to be fired and then rehired on slashed wages. Will the Secretary of Secretary of State apologise to those workers for failing to protect them?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

Once again, I will certainly be investigating the statement issue. I am very intolerant of things being dispatched late from my office. I will write to you, Mr Speaker, and to the Members concerned to let them know what happened.

I know that the hon. Gentleman shares my passion for aviation, and I want to answer his points, but it is important to mention the need not to believe everything you read in the newspapers. I know that this will come as a shock to Members across the House, but things are not always accurately reported. I did not criticise Scotland. I simply used the example to explain that it was unable to have the granular data and had to remove the whole of Greece as a result. On Portugal, as he may have heard me say, although the incident rate was higher, the percentage of positive tests had reduced, which is why we came to different decisions. That is within our right. I have spoken to my opposite number in Scotland today and explained that will be further sharing the data to make granular decisions on islands, if that is what the Scottish Government wish to do.

I want to stress our support for not just airlines but the whole aviation sector. It is interesting that this is frequently mischaracterised as being a lack of support, but when we add it up, it comes to billions of pounds. Billions of pounds is not a lack of support. This is taxpayers’ money that we are giving to commercial organisations to try to keep them going.

On the hon. Gentleman’s point about testing, I absolutely will return to the House. We have to have the science behind us to do this. It is the same with travel corridors and the island approach. We cannot return here until there is a test, for example, that will work under the circumstances described. So far, as far as I am aware, Porton Down has not approved any of the private tests that we read about every weekend in the newspaper—“It’s solved; we can just do this.” I can only work to the speed of the scientists, but I certainly will not delay.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 2nd July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

That is a lot of rhetoric, but, if the hon. Gentleman likes, I will go into some of the money that is being spent. For example, there is the trans-Pennine route, a multi-billion pound upgrade of the route from Manchester to Leeds. Then we have an extra £10 million initially to sort out the Manchester corridor, which was announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday. There is the High Speed North project, which runs into multi-billions. I will write to him, and I hope that he will come back to the Dispatch Box surprised and perhaps withdraw his words when he sees the multi-billion pounds that are being spent in the north right now.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Swissport, 321; Rolls-Royce, 700; Menzies Aviation, 160; and hundreds and hundreds more between British Airways, NCP, easyJet, Ryanair, Jet2, Flybe, BA CityFlyer, TUI and SSP. These are not national statistics, but the aviation job losses in my constituency alone. Might this sector finally get some good news in the Chancellor’s statement next week? If the Secretary of State will not comment on specific aviation companies, will he tell us in general whether he personally thinks it fair that employees can be fired and rehired on slashed terms and conditions?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

As I mentioned in my previous answer, I think the hon. Gentleman is right to be concerned. We need to ensure that there is fair play for employees. Everybody understands that it has been an incredibly tough time. Everyone knows the furlough scheme and many other measures—£330 billion-worth of measures—have been there to support the sector. There has also been an individual process that companies—whether ground handlers, airlines or airports—have been able to go through with the Treasury to access additional money. I would appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s help in ensuring that air bridges can get going as quickly as possible and be reported to the House. I am very keen to get the devolved Administrations, including the Scottish Government, on board so that we can get this thing announced.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Alexander Dennis is a world-leading bus manufacturer, but that sector is also on its knees due to the coronavirus crisis. I welcome the Prime Minister’s re-announcement on bus investment, but it needs to be brought forward in full now. I ask the Secretary of State not to rule out investing in low-emission Euro 6 diesel buses to replace some of the older high-polluting models, helping to reduce carbon emissions more quickly and saving thousands of highly skilled jobs across the industry to boot.

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

Absolutely. The £3 billion, which is going into new buses, will help us to produce 4,000 additional buses. We want them to be low and zero-carbon electric buses, of course, but also hydrogen buses, so we will certainly be taking that forward. I will be saying more about that very shortly.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Monday 18th May 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we are making available a huge amount of support, including things such as the coronavirus large-business scheme—in other words, the coronavirus job-retention furloughing scheme—and various other business-interruption schemes, but it is true to say that airlines and the aviation sector in general are facing a particularly hard time. They were first into this crisis and we think there will be quite a long tail to their coming out of it. I am therefore working closely with my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department for Work and Pensions to support workers who lose their jobs as well.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Scottish Government have given full business rates relief to the aviation sector; by contrast, the UK Government promised sectoral support for aviation before reneging. Last week, Willie Walsh floundered before the Transport Committee when trying to justify the cull of 12,000 British Airways employees—including many from BA CityFlyer, which is based at Edinburgh—despite having access to €10 billion of liquidity, the vast majority of which was generated by British Airways profits. What are the Government actually doing to prevent tens or even hundreds of thousands of job losses in the sector?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

Not only do we have the Bank of England scheme, which enables companies that would not ordinarily have the ability to raise money through a paper route; we also have the business interruption loan scheme for different-sized businesses, the time to pay flexibility, financial supports to employees and the VAT deferrals. We also have a special process in place, available only to the aviation sector, so that when it runs out of those other options, it can talk to us about it. That request needs to be made formally in writing to me. I then discuss it with the Treasury, and many aviation-oriented businesses are in the process of doing that.

Covid-19: Transport

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Tuesday 12th May 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call Gavin Newlands, with a two-minute limit.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Although many businesses across the transport industry are fighting for survival, I note that this is the first time since this situation began that we have seen a Transport Minister in the Chamber delivering a statement or responding to an urgent question. With that said, I welcome the accelerated investment in active travel schemes, which follows a similar announcement by the Scottish Government back in April.

The guidance for England highlights the serious challenges that operators will face in the implementation of the guidance for the foreseeable future and the real and understandable anxiety facing the travelling public. In the section that deals with vulnerable workers—those with medical conditions for whom coronavirus is a serious risk—it says that employers “should offer support”,

“should consider the level of risk”

and should consider

“the guidance on clinically extremely vulnerable”

people and so on. The word “must” does not appear once. Does the Secretary of State not agree that the language is too weak and needs to be strengthened, lest some clinically vulnerable workers be put at risk?

The running of regular services with capacity cut by up to 90% is unsustainable without Government support. Has the Secretary of State estimated how much the implementation will cost and when his Department will start to fund the support required by operators and local government? Given that I am still waiting on a response to any of the letters that I have emailed to the Secretary of State, dating back to the start of April, on the support—or rather, the lack of it—offered to sectors such as road haulage, coaching, roadside recovery, holiday travel and aviation, when does he plan to make a statement covering those issues?

In Scotland, aviation businesses such as airports, Loganair and baggage handlers are exempt from business rates for a year, but people are losing their jobs right now, with businesses folding or being forced to restructure and downsize, and some, such as IAG British Airways, sadly seeing an opportunity to force through changes to workforce terms and conditions that they had been trying to implement for a decade. The extension of the furlough scheme is welcome, but with social distancing likely to be with us for some time, the aviation sector requires more support; when will the Secretary of State introduce such measures?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - -

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was able to catch the previous statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; he answered some of the questions about what employers should be doing.

One of the main characteristics of the UK’s response to this crisis, unlike in other countries, has been that we have asked people to do things—for example, to stay at home—and that has been very widely followed and accepted. In the same spirit, we expect—indeed, we anticipate—that businesses will behave in the same way, as my right hon. Friend Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said not half an hour ago. He has increased the amount of money provided for inspections, for example, to make sure that that happens, but we do look to employers to make sure that they behave in a sensible way. Of course, employees will have all the usual routes—including ACAS, local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive—available if they do not feel that that is happening.

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that a massive amount of support has now been provided to public transport in particular to keep it going. In England, that has involved support to all the train operating companies and to the bus operators. I realise that the finance is separate in Scotland and goes through the Scottish Government; some of the hon. Gentleman’s questions seemed to me to be more applicable to them. I do, however, think that the support provided across the United Kingdom is an indication of where we are all much better off working on these things together, and I welcome that partnership as we seek to save, where possible, aviation companies, bus operators and the others he mentioned.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answers that I provided to the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), on the support that is not necessarily publicly exposed, but is none the less available, to the aviation sector and that few other sectors of the economy enjoy—it can run out of all the different schemes that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has provided, and now extended, and still have additional discussions beyond that. I can confirm that we are in those discussions, including with Scottish companies.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Grant Shapps and Gavin Newlands
Thursday 30th January 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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We are spending £48 billion on rail over the next five years, not including Northern Powerhouse Rail. We are spending £13 billion just in the north and, as the hon. Gentleman will know, I made a significant intervention on the Northern franchise yesterday. That level of investment will continue, and a figure that has not been exposed enough is that £333 per person is spent in the north-west, which compares with £183 per person in London. This Government are more committed to the northern powerhouse, the rail network and the transport network than any before.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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The news about Northern proves that the current system is simply not fit for purpose and highlights yet again the chronic lack of investment in the transport infrastructure of the regions of England. Transport for the North has said that £70 billion is needed for the required improvements, yet regions outside London have averaged a third of London’s public transport spend per capita over the past five years. Does the Secretary of State not see the sheer scale of investment required and therefore accept that gimmicks such as the £500 million announced this week will simply not cut it?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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We have heard several Opposition Members claim that the half a billion pounds on Beeching announced the day before yesterday is somehow just a drop in the ocean and does not matter. Only the Opposition could think that half a billion pounds is not very much money these days. We are absolutely investing in all the other areas. An IPPR North report claimed that there was much less investment in them, but I have figures that challenge that.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands
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I would love to hear those figures, because the maths simply does not add up. The RMT described the money as a drop in the ocean, and it is right. The Scottish Government have invested in modernisation and electrification schemes, completing them without cancellation, on the Aberdeen-Inverness and Edinburgh-Glasgow lines, the Paisley corridor and many other routes, and we reopened the hugely successful Borders railway. Does the Secretary of State not see that that level of ambition is needed to modernise the rail network? If the Government match that ambition, then through consequential funding Scotland could build the rail network of the future and decarbonise even quicker than our 15-year target.

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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We share the same ambition, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will join us in welcoming the Williams rail review which, among other things, will do so much to devolve more power to local communities.