Stephen Metcalfe debates involving the Department for Transport during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Thursday 13th July 2023

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Gagan Mohindra Portrait Mr Gagan Mohindra (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)
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2. What plans he has to reform ticketing for railway services.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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18. What plans he has to reform ticketing for railway services.

Adam Afriyie Portrait Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con)
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19. What plans he has to reform ticketing for railway services.

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Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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There is no better place to celebrate my half century than this place, with friends and even greater colleagues.

I thank my hon. Friend—and I thank his constituent—for the work he performs at Berkhamsted and Tring stations. These stations, along with another 51 stations, will be getting pay-as-you-go by the end of the year. We know that 90% of transactions are completed outside ticket offices, and this shift tends to increase for stations that operate pay-as-you-go. He asked about ensuring that staff at ticket barriers are easily identifiable. I believe that is the case, and we will certainly make sure, as these reforms are rolled out by train operators, that it continues to be the case. The proposals from train operators are aimed at redeploying ticket office staff to parts of the station where all passengers will access them and see them.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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Will my hon. Friend confirm when my constituents will be able to access the tap-in and tap-out service from the stations in my constituency at Laindon, Basildon, East Tilbury, Pitsea and Stanford-le-Hope?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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Yes, I can. I thank my hon. Friend for the work he has done in ensuring that part of the roll-out of the 53 includes four of his stations. I can confirm that we are on track to get those delivered by the end of the year. Across the rail network, that will take us to more than 400 stations with pay-as-you-go.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Thursday 19th January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
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The hon. Lady will be aware that the BSIPs and the devolution deals allow franchising powers to go forward, and Labour Mayors, if they want them, can apply for them. If she wants all of this across the country, she should speak to some of her Labour colleagues in order to do that. Some are doing franchising, but a lot are taking the other alternatives and working in close partnerships. As for the new buses across the country, perhaps she could welcome the extra money going into the north-east today—the 52 extra electric buses in the north-east depot. Perhaps she could welcome the news of that extra funding today.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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2. What assessment he has made of the accessibility of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
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5. What assessment he has made of the accessibility of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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People who have off-street parking can easily meet the majority of their EV charging needs at home, but people who do not are rightly concerned about access to charging. How will the Government address that issue to ensure that people in Basildon and Thurrock have equitable access?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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My hon. Friend will be aware that Essex County Council has been able to use ORCS—the on-street residential charge point scheme—and that there has been support in his area for workplace charging and the home charge scheme. We want to go much further, however, and the new local EV infrastructure fund will support local authorities to do just that. A £10 million LEVI—local electric vehicle infrastructure—pilot is in operation, which will deliver more than 1,000 charge points. We will use that as a springboard for further expansion of the fund.

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Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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As my hon. Friend will know, National Highways has now submitted a development consent order on the construction of the lower Thames crossing. Who will be assessing the accuracy across Government of the benefit-cost ratio, and who will make the final decision on whether the £10 billion-plus-plus-plus budget still represents value for money?

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
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My hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment further while the DCO process is ongoing. The LTC is a major transport infrastructure project and I am happy to meet with him and other hon. Members interested in this, as is the Secretary of State; it is a major piece of infrastructure investment and we need to get it right.

P&O Ferries

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Wednesday 30th March 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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It is clear that Peter Hebblethwaite has no intention of acting with honour, but I hope that this package of measures will at least give him pause for thought. I hear the calls for further action against the parent company, DP World. I gently point out to those saying so that it is not without consequence—my constituency is home to London Gateway, and hundreds of people are employed there as well—and I want them to act cautiously. However, I call on DP World, the parent company, to look closely at the actions of Peter Hebblethwaite, because he is damaging its reputation, its relationship with the Government and its relationship with me. Get him to do the right thing.

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the reputation of P&O Ferries being ripped to shreds in 14 days in a way that I cannot think of with any company in corporate history. It is important that its owners understand that they are welcome to invest in this country and create employment, but that we take employment law seriously. They need to understand that and deal with this P&O situation, otherwise that will not be smooth.

Lower Thames Crossing

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Thursday 24th March 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Adam Holloway) on securing this important debate. It seems a little like groundhog day, because my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) and I have been talking about the project for probably about 15 years since its first iteration came forward in about 2007. Here we are again talking about its shortcomings and it potentially not delivering what it set out to do.

Since the beginning, I have been clear that I have deep reservations about the project. I still have those reservations, because I remain unconvinced that the new proposed lower Thames crossing will do what it set out to do, which is fundamentally to relieve congestion at the existing Dartford crossing, where we know there are problems. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham has explained, it only needs the wind to blow a bit too hard or the wrong sort of vehicle to turn up and we end up with serious and catastrophic congestion. Some improvements may well come from building a lower Thames crossing as proposed, because it will move some vehicles away—I cannot remember the current figure; I think it is about 22% of existing use—but the existing crossing will still be above design capacity.

Jackie Doyle-Price Portrait Jackie Doyle-Price
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I probably have the joy of having spent more time in the congestion caused by the Dartford crossing than any other hon. Member save my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Adam Holloway), who often used to get stuck in it when he came to see me during election time, but that is another story.

One issue that causes congestion at the Dartford crossing is the inadequate supporting road infrastructure around junction 30, particularly the fact that there are no east-facing slips at Lakeside on to the A13, which adds further traffic to that busy junction and adds to the pressure on the Dartford crossing. Does my hon. Friend the Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe) agree that we could get a lot of bang for our buck and release capacity at Dartford if we fixed the local issues around junction 30?

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The east-facing slips are absolutely vital; we must build them. People are coming down the A13 and round junction 30 to go back to Lakeside, which is utter madness, so we certainly need to do that. There are also issues locally because three different agencies deal with the roads round there: Highways England, Thurrock Council and Essex County Council not far past the Thurrock boundary. Local roads interact with the main network of roads but no one controls all the various pressure points. When the existing crossing fails, it may only be one set of traffic lights somewhere on one of the industrial estates that is causing such catastrophic congestion, because it was designed to allow through a far smaller number of vehicles than are trying to use it when there is a failure.

As I have highlighted over the years and as the Thames Crossing Action Group has highlighted, this is a destructive project, it is costly and it is environmentally damaging. It is destructive because it will put on the Essex side a vast amount of new concrete road leading from the Thames all the way up to the junction with the A127. It is very costly, as we have heard, at £8.2 billion. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham described his 8,200 towers of 1 million coins very aptly. If I had time, I could work out the volume of that, but it is a vast amount of money. Of course, the project is environmentally damaging not only in the amount of construction work that will go on, but, I think, in inviting more vehicles into the area. I know that the lower Thames crossing team are keen to decarbonise, but it cannot be built without having a huge impact on our local environment.

We have time, but I do not want to detain the House too long. The fundamental problem as far as I see it, looking back to when the route was confirmed in 2017, is that the proposal as it stands does very little to address the fundamental problem at the existing crossing. The commitment one will have to make to the new crossing, as it is so far away from the existing crossing, means that thousands of vehicles will be beyond the point of no return, and my hon. Friend described junction 2—of the A2 or the M2?

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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People will be trapped inside an area that they cannot escape from. I once heard, on one of my visits to Thurrock, that the congestion when the existing crossing fails backs up at the rate of a mile a minute. That is extraordinary, but it is because of the volume of traffic, with so much traffic trying to get through that pressure point.

I am deeply concerned that, if and when the new lower Thames crossing gets built, it will not actually address the problem. When it does not address that problem and we have spent £8.2 billion on it—I suspect the costs will go up—people will rightly look at us and say, “How on earth have you spent £8.2 billion on a project that still means, on the very rare occasions when there is a catastrophic failure, that people end up having to sleep in IKEA?” That is a true fact: once the congestion was so bad that nothing could move, IKEA opened its doors, and people slept in its beds and on its sofas.

Jackie Doyle-Price Portrait Jackie Doyle-Price
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Does my hon. Friend recall that, two days before Christmas in 2013, the congestion killed Lakeside on the busiest shopping day of the year? We actually ended up with a surfeit of turkeys in Thurrock because no one could get to the supermarket to get one.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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I think that is hard to forget, and it was catastrophic. Of course, it is damaging to local business, because once people think that such catastrophic congestion happens in and around Lakeside in the run-up to Christmas, they avoid it and want to go somewhere else.

Whatever we do, it has to address those problems. I am really concerned that it will not, and people will ask us why it has not, so we will be back here, after however long it may take for this thing to get built, apologising and asking what we are going to do about it and how we can address the problem.

I am conscious of the time, so I will not go on for too long, but I am particularly worried about air quality issues. We already suffer with poor air quality along the Thames estuary. That is not all to do with motoring; some of it is to do with shipping, and some is to do with industrial activity in northern Europe and fumes blowing across. However, in one ward in Stanford in my constituency, the level of particulate matter in the air is about three times the national average. It is one of the poorest air quality areas in the UK, and I cannot believe, regardless of whether we move to electric and autonomous vehicles, that encouraging more traffic into the area—giving off particulates from brake discs, tyres and the road surface—will improve that air quality.

With all that said, there are potentially some positives. I would like to thank the lower Thames crossing team generally for their interaction with me. They are delivering what the Government have asked them to do, and they are trying to do that in the best way they can. They want to consult and to engage with the public, and I want to thank them for that. That does not mean I necessarily think it is the right project, because as we have heard, it has the potential to be a white elephant. In future there will be changes to the way we move freight, and a drive to use more rail to move freight around. As we improve signalling and move to a more digital railway, the capacity of that railway will increase to allow us to move more freight.

We must also take into account the pandemic, and the effect it has had on people’s desire to work from home and travel less. Will we actually need this capacity where it is proposed, or should we be having a rethink? If this project goes ahead there are opportunities for businesses—indeed, if any small businesses in Thurrock, Essex, Kent or Gravesham are not aware of this, there is a supply chain school, and large tier 1 contractors are looking for local businesses to help them deliver this. If the project does proceed, I welcome the fact that there will be apprenticeship and training opportunities.

In conclusion, for all the reasons I have stated I remain unconvinced about the lower Thames crossing. It will be destructive, costly, and environmentally unfriendly, but my primary objection is that I do not believe it will work. We will still get congestion at the existing Dartford crossing for all the reasons we have heard, and we will be back here trying to find a solution, having spent £8.2 billion on something that might benefit those who want to get from Dover to Cambridge, but will not benefit those who want to get from Gravesham to Thurrock. After 15 years of discussing this, I ask the Department for Transport and the relevant Ministers to please look long and hard at whether what is being proposed still aligns with what it set out to achieve.

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Trudy Harrison Portrait Trudy Harrison
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No one could deny that my hon. Friend is passionate and frustrated, and knows his area incredibly well. I hope that the meeting with the roads Minister will happen swiftly so that he can make that point to her as well.

The lower Thames crossing will consist of the longest road tunnel in the UK, between north Kent and south Essex, and will include 14.3 miles of new road linking the M2/A2, A13 and M25. By almost doubling road capacity across the River Thames east of London, it will cut traffic using the Dartford crossing by 22%, and will provide national road freight with a reliable new connection.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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That is an impressive statistic— 14.3 miles of new road—but there is an impact from that road on the communities that it will cut through. There is also great concern among potential users of the new road about the designation that it will have. Will it be an A road or a motorway? If it is to be a motorway, will it be a smart motorway, and is there not a moratorium on the introduction of new smart motorways? There is still a fair amount of confusion among local people, first about whether it will solve the problem, and secondly about whether it will be safe to use.

Trudy Harrison Portrait Trudy Harrison
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I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, but I am going to make progress now. Hopefully some of his points will be addressed as I proceed, but if they are not, the roads Minister will be able to deal with those specific matters.

As we have heard, congested motorways and major trunk roads are causing misery to hundreds of thousands of people every week. It is currently predicted that the lower Thames crossing will reduce the number of heavy goods vehicles at the Dartford crossing by providing a more attractive route for many vehicles travelling to and from manufacturing centres, distribution hubs and ports. Moreover, the safety systems and the size of the lower Thames crossing tunnel mean that it can accommodate all HGVs and three lanes of traffic in both directions, reducing the need for vehicles carrying hazardous goods to use the Dartford crossing, causing congestion-related delays to other road users. The proposed crossing will relieve congestion by diverting more than 13.5 million vehicles away from Dartford every year. That is what makes the strategic case for it so clear.

I took the opportunity to speak to my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson)—who, unfortunately, is unable to take part in this debate—and to hear his support for the scheme. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham is aware of that, and I hope he does not mind my referring to it.

Let me now say something about the route selection. On 12 April 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport announced the preferred route for the lower Thames crossing. His announcement followed a comprehensive review of options and extensive analysis of more than 47,000 responses to the 2016 public consultation. I am pleased that all the Members present today recognise the efforts that the project team have put into communicating with Members, local leaders and the wider community.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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I entirely agree with what the Minister has just said. The team has been exemplary in their engagement with us—with one small exception, which I want to put on record. I refer to the way in which they compensate people whose homes they are acquiring. They say that this is because they are bound by regulation.

There is a great discrepancy between the valuations of the Valuation Office and local valuations. What concerns me is that those who work for the Valuation Office on a regional basis, while having the best of intentions, do not know what the situation on the ground is. Value is often demonstrated by market testing, but when a house is blighted because it is going to be affected by the lower Thames crossing, there is no way of market testing it. I would appreciate a specific action point to look at whether we can find a way of compensating people more generously—not making them overly wealthy, just taking into account local valuations rather than regional ones.

Trudy Harrison Portrait Trudy Harrison
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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and I would be grateful to receive further details of the homes or specific communities he feels are affected. That would be much appreciated.

Since the preferred route was announced, and following the withdrawal of the development consent order in 2020, National Highways has continued to work extensively with stakeholders—including my hon. Friends, as we have heard today—to improve and refine the scheme. This has been part of a comprehensive programme of consultation, and in addition to the consultation in 2016, it has included four further consultations since 2018, with 26 consultation events in Gravesham, 100 across the whole project and more than 30,000 responses. I am pleased that Members have referenced their gratitude for the effort that has gone into the consultation.

There is more to come. A further targeted consultation will take place after the local elections in May to engage stakeholders and local residents and to ensure that they will have their views heard on the use of Tilbury Fields following the positive resolution of a land clash. This will be the fifth public consultation, showing that National Highways is continually listening to those impacted by the scheme to ensure that they benefit as much as possible. Further work with parliamentarians has resulted in 11 parliamentary forums designed to bring local and regional MPs together at key project milestones between the contact programme of one-to-one briefing meetings. The forum series started in 2017, with the most recent forum being held this month. As a result of the tireless work by everyone, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham and the other Members who are in the Chamber tonight, National Highways has made several key changes in the constituency of Gravesham, including several requests that my hon. Friend put forward in an Adjournment debate in 2017 regarding the design and development of the lower Thames crossing.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Thursday 9th September 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble) (Con)
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1. What steps he is taking to support the roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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4. What steps he is taking to support the roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Felicity Buchan Portrait Felicity Buchan (Kensington) (Con)
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6. What steps he is taking to support the roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

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Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
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I heartily commend my hon. Friend’s constituents for the transition to electric mobility. We are already supporting the roll-out of over 25,000 publicly available charging devices, including more than 4,700 rapid devices—one of the largest networks in Europe. I am delighted that South Ribble Borough Council is one of the 137 local authorities that has applied for the on-street charge point scheme, which has awarded funding for 16 chargers. I am happy to work with her to get further infrastructure rolled out.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that it was brilliant to see earlier this week figures showing that ever more electric vehicles than petrol or diesel ones are being sold. She has talked about the on-street charging points. It is vitally important that we get those in place and that these vehicles are accessible not just to those who have driveways and private parking. Will also she talk to her friends in the Treasury about the distortion that vehicle excise duty can create, because electric vehicles tend to be more expensive than their petrol and diesel versions, sometimes pushing them into a higher excise duty bracket?

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the popularity of electric cars. In fact, one in seven cars sold so far this year has a plug. He will know that vehicle excise duties are obviously a matter for my friends in the Treasury, but he will be also be aware that we are continually supporting the up-front purchase of electric vehicles via a very generous programme of grants, and that is set to continue.

Transport

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Tuesday 29th June 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Ministerial Corrections
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The following is an extract from Transport Topical Questions on 24 June 2021.
Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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I welcome the new flexible season ticket that was introduced this week. It will save someone travelling from Stanford-le-Hope into London three days a week more than £120, and someone travelling from Basildon more than £100. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as more and more people move to hybrid working, it is important that we have flexibility in our public transport systems?

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Thursday 24th June 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robert Courts Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Robert Courts)
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The Department does recognise the severe impact that the covid-19 pandemic has had on regional air travel. We have supported critical routes through policies such as public service obligations and the airport and ground operations support scheme. The Government are working on a strategic framework for the sector, which will focus on building back better and ensuring a successful aviation sector for the future. What the sector will certainly be glad of is that it is this Government who are looking after its interests, not the Scottish Government, who have been accused of sacrificing the industry by the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe  (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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I welcome the new flexible season ticket that was introduced this week. It will save someone travelling from Stanford-le-Hope into London three days a week more than £120, and someone travelling from Basildon more than £100. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as more and more people move to hybrid working, it is important that we have flexibility in our public transport systems?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I saw some coverage of the flexible season tickets, and it is true to say that ticketing is complex across the network, but, compared with somebody who would otherwise buy a regular ticket, somebody travelling two or three days a week will always be at least 20% better off with a flexible season ticket.[Official Report, 29 June 2021, Vol. 698, c. 6MC.]

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Thursday 11th March 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Môn) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to increase the use of electric vehicles.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to increase the use of electric vehicles.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to increase the use of electric vehicles.

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Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the UK is at the forefront of the electric-vehicle industry, and I want her constituency to play its part. We are working with the Institute of the Motor Industry to ensure that the UK’s mechanics workforce is well-trained and has the skills needed to safely repair electric vehicles. Through consultation with the automotive sector, the IMI has developed Techsafe, a register and professional standard for electric vehicle technicians that the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles has endorsed.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe [V]
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To be able to truly embrace the EV revolution, does my hon. Friend agree that there needs to be a comprehensive network of on-street residential charging points close to where people live, especially where they have no dedicated parking space? Will she work with local authorities to start this work now, so that that is one less barrier to EV adoption?

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right and we are already working closely with local authorities. Our on-street residential charge point scheme has so far supported more than 105 different local authorities to fund more than 3,800 charge points. We have recently announced that £20 million will be made available under this scheme for the year 2021-22. We are working so closely with local authorities to ensure the maximum take-up of the scheme, because we do not want a lack of charging infrastructure to be a barrier to anyone wanting to transition to an EV.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 18th May 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Secretary of State was asked—
Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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What steps his Department has taken with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to repatriate British nationals stranded overseas as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con)
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What steps his Department has taken with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to repatriate British nationals stranded overseas as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.

Grant Shapps Portrait The Secretary of State for Transport (Grant Shapps)
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We estimate that more than 1.3 million people have returned to the UK via commercial routes, the majority through our work to keep the vital routes open.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe [V]
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It is hugely welcome that 1.3 million people have been brought home by commercial airlines. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that he continues to work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure that support and guidance is available for those people who are struggling—there are many of them—to find commercial routes home?