Fund transport outside London properly, say MPs


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Transport projects in parts of England outside London have been underfunded in recent years and this "cannot be allowed to continue", MPs have said.

The Transport Committee also argued that changes to the way money is shared "could disadvantage the regions".

It called for a review of funding by the 2020 general election, adding that spending per head in London was more than twice that elsewhere.

But the government said its projects would "benefit all areas of England".

The committee's report looked into new arrangements, from 2015, for local decisions on transport spending to be devolved to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and more competition for contracts.

LEPs bring local authorities and businesses together to decide on investment priorities including roads and buildings.


It said ministers must "ensure that there is a fairer allocation of funding" than at present.

Committee chairman Louise Ellman, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: "Far less money is spent on transport projects outside London than in the capital. This inequality has gone on for too long and has to change."

Start Quote

We have invested more than £6bn in 2011/12 alone in developing transport infrastructure outside London”

End Quote Government spokesman

The Institute of Public Policy Research says transport infrastructure spending is £2,500 per head in London compared with £5 per head in the North East.

Mrs Ellman said: "Even on the government's figures, transport spending per head in London is more than twice that in the English regions."

She added: "The government has again changed the system for distributing money to local areas for major transport projects, with much more emphasis now on competition for funding.

"This will not necessarily help regions get a fairer share of transport funding and could make the situation worse."

Mrs Ellman added that the government's focus on using competition to bring in private sector funding for projects "could disadvantage the regions, where there tends to be less private sector money available compared with London".

HS2 computer graphic Ministers point to the proposed HS2 rail project as benefiting the English regions as well as London

She also said the Department for Transport had to ensure "strategically significant schemes such as access to ports don't get overlooked and that areas covered by a number of LEPs do not miss out because of fragmentation".

For Labour, shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: "This report raises serious questions about the government's delivery of local transport schemes.

"Unnecessary competition between local transport bodies and repeated changes to local transport funding can lead to delayed delivery of new transport schemes and lack of accountability to local people."

But a Department for Transport spokesman said: "We have invested more than £6bn in 2011/12 alone in developing transport infrastructure outside London.

"Our plans for major schemes like HS2 and the £600m Northern Hub, which will transform rail in the North, as well as countless local road projects across England show how committed we are to delivering improvements that benefit all areas of England, not just the capital.

"Local Enterprise Partnerships understand local issues and solutions best and their priorities will drive local transport funding decisions."

He added: "We will give full consideration to the committee's report and respond fully in due course."

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    14:32: Tory MP faces expenses payback
    Bob Blackman MP

    Conservative backbencher Bob Blackman faces repaying more than £1,000 after losing an appeal against an inquiry that found he claimed mileage expenses for up to five times the real distance. An investigation by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) watchdog found last month that the Harrow East MP made more than 700 claims for travel around his constituency that were either "inaccurate" or not allowed under the rules. Mr Blackman refused to accept the findings, insisting he would hand back£237 for journeys to party political engagements and from his home to his office. Ipsa has said today it is standing by its original ruling.

    14:25: Online voting
    Mobile phone

    Online voting could boost youth voter turnout from 44% in 2010 to as high as 70%, a report out today claims. The idea is being pushed by parliamentarians after the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy voiced its support for pilots in time for a 2020 rollout. Industry figures have suggested this is unlikely, but that isn't stopping WebRoots Democracy from making the case for online voting. "The UK is a politically active nation online, and we need to translate this passion to voting: the bedrock of our democracy," founder Areeq Chowdhury says. "Analogue methods of politics will increasingly become incompatible with the digital world of today."

    14:18: Green team

    Back to Mumsnet, where Natalie Bennett is asked who's actually in charge of the Green Party. Is it true, she's asked, that she could share responsibility for the TV election debates - if they happen - with Caroline Lucas, her predecessor and the party's only MP?

    Ms Bennett answers thus: "The Green Party leadership is a team - that's something we've always made clear, and one of the things that is different about the Green Party. So we - and I - are perfectly comfortable with different people representing us in different forums, indeed we like to be able to share opportunities around.

    "That helps make it clear that unlike another party I think you could identify, we're not a one-man band!

    "Sometimes you might see me on the TV, sometimes Jenny Jones as our member of the House of Lords, sometimes Caroline, and sometimes one of our brilliant Young Green candidates."

    14:12: Trident debate
    Trident submarine

    David Cameron was quick to turn Tory backbencher Liam Fox's question about Trident on Labour, amid fears from some that the SNP could insist on moving Britain's nuclear deterrent away from Scotland in coalition talks. "People don't want to see a grubby deal between the people who want to break up Britain and the people who want to bankrupt Britain," the prime minister said. The issue was highlighted by CND canvassing results published yesterday which suggested that three-quarters of Labour's parliamentary candidates would vote against Trident replacement.

    @stefanstern Stefan Stern, columnist

    tweets: @IanDunt Yes, but Dave is still on the hook because of all those quotes he gave last time about how marvellous and essential they are.

    @IanDunt Ian Dunt, editor of

    tweets: If Brown held out against TV debates, the media reaction would have been much more severe than it has been against Cameron.

    @robindbrant Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: understand the migration policy fully unveiled by #ukip today has been the product of 7 months work

    13:57: Public opinion on drugs
    Nick Clegg and Richard Branson

    Nick Clegg says the public's opinion on the idea of drugs reform is "more subtle and smarter" than the media believe.

    @AlexStevensKent Alex Stevens, professor in Criminal Justice at the University of Kent

    tweets: I asked Clegg what UK decrim' would look like. A. We can work that out, and it would be cheaper than current system #CHEvents

    PMQs Andy Crockett., Politics Live reader

    Wouldn't it be nice and a refreshing change if at PMQ's, the prime minister actually answered a question put to him? No invented question, no refusing to answer, no head in the sand, no evasion, just answer the question asked.

    @JohnRentoul John Rentoul, columnist at the Independent on Sunday

    tweets: David Cameron embarrassed himself by refusing even to pretend to answer either of EdM's questions #PMQs

    PMQs Eddie Jonas, Politics Live reader

    Don't you love the way carefully chosen and worded statistics are used by the PM? "Police funding has been reduced however the PERCENTAGE of front line staff has gone up!"

    13:41: Green party leader on Mumsnet

    Natalie Bennett continues her redemption after last week's slew of criticism by appearing on a Mumsnet online Q&A session. So far, we've learned that the Greens would support the Labour Party on a confidence and supply basis in the event of a hung parliament, that they'd never form a coalition with the Tories, and that Ms Bennett's favourite biscuits are macaroons.

    @mattholehouse Matthew Holehouse, political correspondent, Daily Telegraph

    tweets: Nick Clegg says many Tory MPs back him on drug reform, but we will have to find them ourselves

    13:38: Immigration BBC Radio 4

    Is it time for the Conservatives to have a rethink on immigration? Eric Pickles says not. He tells The World at One it's a good thing to have a target of tens of thousands and there's no suggestion the Conservative Party is pulling back from its promise. Would he like to see it as a manifesto pledge this time around? The communities secretary says he's sure that "a number of policies" will be in the manifesto.

    13:35: Office invasion

    While Nick Clegg is speaking in London, it appears some disgruntled students have invaded his Sheffield office. More details here in the Sheffield Star.

    13:29: 'Reform not a taboo'

    Nick Clegg is pretty clear who he blames for inaction on the issue of drugs. "I'm incredibly frustrated that, after five years in coalition, we cannot take our work to its logical conclusion - just because the Tories are scared of being branded soft on drugs," he says. "It's time for the Conservatives and Labour to realise that the world has moved on, reform is no longer a taboo subject and voters expect politicians to deliver results based on solid evidence, not overblown rhetoric."

    @BBCWorldatOne World at One

    tweets: @EricPickles: "This country was virtually bust when the coalition came in" #wato

    @CH_Events Chatham House Events

    tweets: UK is way behind the curve - Portugal, Switzerland, US have all shown there is a better way to deal with #DrugPolicy - @DPMoffice #CHEvents

    13:25: Living standards BBC Radio 4

    Labour's shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint says for the first time we will be going into a general election with most people receiving a lower wage than at the last election.

    Lib Dem Employment Minister Jo Swinson says there is also a skills gap, which the government is trying to plug. Only 7% of engineers are women, for example, she says, and that is something they're trying to fix.

    Meanwhile, Conservative Communities Secretary Eric Pickles tells the World at One that living standards for those of working age will move past their 2010 peak at the end of this year... but only if we "stick to our long-term economic plan".

    @TransformDrugs Transform Drug Policy Foundation

    tweets: Richard Branson mentioned drug decriminalisation in Portugal. Find out more here

    @DPMoffice Deputy PM, Nick Clegg

    tweets: Nick Clegg: The time for change has come; we need to implement evidence-based #DrugPolicy that works @RichardBranson

    Nick Clegg and Richard Branson at drugs event
    13:18: Lending woes BBC Radio 4

    Steve Brittan, chief executive of company BSA Machine Tools, says it's all well and good telling businesses they need to invest, but without banks willing to lend them money to do so it's impossible for them to compete against their rivals, let alone expand their businesses.

    13:17: All in it together BBC Radio 4

    "It's not just for government to solve this problem however," Mr Beatson says. There are things that only government can do, invest in infrastructure, for example and regulating industry. But it's also about businesses making investment. Productivity isn't about how hard you work it's about the return you get on your investment, he adds

    13:15: Productivity worries BBC Radio 4

    The IFS report on living standards remains one of the big stories of the day. On The World at One, Mark Beatson, chief economist at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), says lower productivity has been a nagging concern since 1998, but we're now in an unprecedented world where productivity is lower than it was in 2008 despite the economic recovery.

    13:10: Clegg drugs speech

    Nick Clegg is now giving his speech on drugs that we've been trailing this morning. "If you are anti-drugs you should be pro-reform," he tells the audience in London.

    13:06: IFS report James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    The Conservatives' great fear in this election is that they will experience a voteless recovery - all the stats say it's getting better but people don't feel that on the ground - and wont show it at the ballot box. They hope the IFS report will help convince the public that things really are improving.

    13:00: Lunchtime recap:
    • Ed Miliband attacks David Cameron over his record on immigration at PMQs - the latter lists his other achievements in office, but admits that immigration from within the EU has risen.
    • The Labour leader also asks the PM to say if he will take part in a head-to-head TV election debate. Mr Cameron says "we're having a debate now" and in terms of the TV events, he wants to "get on with the debates before the election campaign"
    • Nigel Farage has given a big speech outlining his desire to return immigration to "normal" levels, with between 20,000 and 50,000 migrants given work permits each year.
    • But the UKIP leader has spent much of the morning insisting he hasn't performed a U-turn on the issue of whether he's setting a formal immigration cap. His spokesman Steven Woolfe said last week he wanted a cap of 50,000, but Mr Farage says he - and the public - have "had enough of caps and targets".
    • Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell has paid £80,000 in damages to Pc Toby Rowland, the office at the centre of the plebgate row
    • The Liberal Democrats' manifesto will include a pledge to hand drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health, Nick Clegg is to say.
    12:56: Migration target Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Labour's Hilary Benn says it was unwise of the prime minister to make the promise on net migration, and criticises Ms Perry for trying to "blame everyone else". Asked what Labour's plan is, he says the party would have a "fair" immigration policy that requires migrants to the UK to contribute. "That's what we're doing," Ms Perry intervenes.

    12:55: Jobs factory Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Over to the MPs panel now, and transport minister Claire Perry concedes that the government had not met the target. But she says that no-one could have predicted the UK would become the "jobs factory of Europe", which is why migration to the UK has increased, she adds. Ms Perry stresses the government's "commitment" to bringing down immigration.

    12:51: Miliband's tactics Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The Guardian's Nick Watt predicts that Ed Miliband will not want to define his election campaign on immigration, but rather on the cost of living. "But for today's purposes he felt he had a clear way of getting a clear win on immigration, and clearly the prime minister was uneasy," he adds.

    12:49: PMQs analysis Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Let's go back to the Daily Politics for a moment, where we're getting some reaction to PMQs. Guardian commentator Nick Watt says the PM clearly knew what was coming on immigration. He knew that Ed Miliband would mention David Cameron's pre-election "contract with Britain", and so had a copy to hand to reel off commitments that had been met, he added.

    12:44: Coming up in the Commons House of Commons Parliament

    That brings an end to this week's Prime Minister's Questions and in a short while MPs will turn their attention to the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill, which is going through its final stages in the Commons.

    12:40: Hospital failures

    Labour MP John Woodcock raised a question, before the session ended, on Furness General Hospital, after an investigation rules that a "lethal mix" of failures led to the unnecessary deaths of 11 babies and one mother. David Cameron says it is a "very important report", adding that the government wanted to see many of its recommendations implemented. Where there are problems in the NHS it is important not to sweep them under the carpet but be open and honest about them, he says, adding that his heart goes out to all those whose children died at the hospital.

    12:39: Pic: Cameron, Clegg and Hague
    David Cameron, Nick Clegg and William Hague
    12:35: Energy prices

    Labour MP Iain Mckenzie's attempt to attack David Cameron over the government's energy reforms backfires slightly, as the PM uses it as an opportunity to go on an attack of his own, by making fun of Labour's "price freeze" which he said would increase consumers' bills as energy costs have fallen.

    12:33: Nursery first aid

    Lib Dem MP Mark Hunter asks the prime minister if he supports a campaign to ensure that all nursery staff are qualified in paediatric first aid, and if so, if he will seek to hurry up a government review on the matter. David Cameron says it makes sense for as many people as possible to have that sort of training, and promises to speak to the relevant minister in charge of the review.



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