In the House of Commons yesterday I asked the Secretary of State about transport funding priorities for the South West.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Given that investment in transport infrastructure has fallen significantly under this Government, and that the Secretary of State’s Conservative predecessor made exactly the same promise about the A303 in December 1996, I hope the Secretary of State will forgive me if I take today’s reannouncements with a tad of scepticism. Given the huge economic damage to the south-west whenever our main rail artery is severed, does he agree that tackling the vulnerability of our rail infrastructure has to be our region’s greatest priority?
Mr McLoughlin: The right hon. Gentleman slightly absurdly chastises me for something that was said in 1996. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a different Government between 1997 and 2010, of whom he was a member. There must therefore have been 13 years in which he failed to make any progress whatever for his area, so I will not take too many lessons from him on that. I agree with him on the question of resilience in the south-west, however, and I am keen to ensure that we look at that whole matter. That includes the railways, but it also involves improving the road network, which has been sadly neglected. The planned improvements for the A303 and the A30 that we have announced today will have a substantial effect on the area, and will be of great benefit to the south-west.