Mr Redwood’s interventions during the debate on the Infrastructure Bill (Lords), 8 December 2014

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does the Minister recall that we both fought on a Conservative manifesto that said that we should get rid of quangos and not create new ones, and that Ministers should be responsible and accountable—something that I entirely agree with? Why is he proposing two new quangos on highways instead of the excellent arrangements for accountability through him?

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr John Hayes): My right hon. Friend has made that point to me previously. Let me tell him, with a candour equal to that of my earlier expressions, that I am absolutely determined that the lines of accountability for the strategy we have in place should be clear and that Ministers’ lines of reporting in this House should be palpable and known. Indeed, I have missioned my Department to make sure that that happens.

I will make available in the Library of the House, not only for my right hon. Friend’s benefit but for that of the whole House, a description of precisely what those lines of accountability will look like. When he sees that clear description of how the House and Ministers are going to exercise their proper authority in the name of the people, I think he will be more than impressed and will feel that this Government and this Minister have gone further than even he expected us to.

Mr Redwood: On the important link to the south-west, did the Government look at the alternative to a tunnel of deviating the road a little further away from Stonehenge —giving generous compensation to landowners—and building a much cheaper road above ground?

Mr Hayes: We considered all the options. My right hon. Friend will know that we undertook considerable research, discussion and consultation on that matter. The scheme we have ended up with has been welcomed by several environmental bodies, such as English Heritage. Of course, each option has pros and cons—I would not be straightforward with the House if I did not acknowledge that—but I think that we have got the right solution.

As with all such schemes, what characterises the Government, above and beyond the desire to think strategically and put funds behind the strategy, is a willingness to look empirically at a range of options. It is very important to be ambitious, but also to be precise, and the way in which we measure the effect of the money we spend has allowed us to allocate funds not only to areas of the road network that have the greatest need, but where we can make the most difference.

The fact that there is £100 million to improve cycling provision at 200 key locations across the network reflects our understanding that it is not just motorists and hauliers who count. There is a £300-million environmental fund to mitigate carbon emissions and reduce the number of people affected by serious noise by up to 250,000. There is £100 million to unlock growth and housing developments.

I have missioned my Department to look closely at the look and feel of what we build. It is absolutely right that the aesthetics are taken into account. If that was good enough for earlier generations, it should be good enough for ours. What we build does not have to be ugly. It can serve a purpose and have an edifying impact on the localities affected.

Mr Redwood: Now that the shadow Minister has seen the projected overall levels of capital expenditure laid out by the coalition Government in the autumn statement for the period up to 2020, does his party think they are the right levels, or are they too low or too high?

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): As I said in answer to the previous question, we are not in the business of saying that we wish to cut back on capital investment. For goodness’ sake, we have been saying for four years that the Government have not been investing enough in infrastructure. It seemed from the Minister’s opening remarks that he was criticising the previous Government for not having spent enough. That is a bit of a change from what we have heard before—usually we are accused of having spent too much. Labour spent a total of £93.7 billion on our road network between 1997 and 2010. That is because we are interested and we are committed to repairing our creaking infrastructure. That will not change.

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  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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