HC Deb 17 December 2002 vol 396 cc687-8
11. Barbara Follett (Stevenage)

What plans his Department has to improve east-west transport links in the eastern region. [85911]

The Minister for Transport (Mr. John Spellar)

East-west transport links in the east of England are being investigated by the London to south midlands multi-modal study, which is nearing completion. The final report will be published early in the new year. We will consider the regional planning body's recommendations on the study and make a further announcement on how they will be implemented in due course.

Barbara Follett

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and for the £145 million that the eastern region received in last week's local transport settlement, but is he aware that none of that money went towards improving east-west transport links? Will he bear that in mind in making future allocations, particularly as there is an urgent need for those links to bring employment to the Suffolk coastal towns?

Mr. Spellar

My hon. Friend is aware that we are considering not just the immediate area in London and the south midlands, but the area surrounding Ipswich, not least because of the connections out to the east coast ports. We need to wait for the outcome of the multi-modal study and, of course, the views of the regional planning body. I will certainly take account of her views when we come to that consideration and hope also that she will make representations at that time.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Will the Minister confirm that he has no intention of allowing, let alone financing, the railway and motorway from Luton to Stevenage, which the Luton airport operators have said would be necessary if their expansion plans were approved and which would destroy the environment in my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett)? It would probably end in her back garden. Will he also confirm that the real way to stop unnecessary cross-county transport and travel is to focus airport growth in a minimum of hub airports rather than unnecessarily expanding airports such as Luton?

Mr. Spellar

The right hon. Gentleman is asking me to prejudge not one consultation, but two. I need to await the outcome of both consultations before I can come to a view.