MP’s Column - Questions of transport

The matter of Hawthorn Road’s closure has not gone unnoticed. In addition to writing to Ministers, the County Council, and others, I raised the subject at Transport Questions in the House of Commons recently. We are entirely in favour of the Eastern Bypass of course, and it will make life much easier for many people in the area. But it is completely anomalous to build the Bypass and not replace an existing road with a road bridge.

The authorities have conceded that a foot bridge will be built, and horses will be able to use it, but as I pointed out in the Commons not many local residents have stables in the back of their gardens to access Lincoln on a horse. The Minister was receptive, but it’s a matter for Lincolnshire County Council.

Our rail services here in Lincolnshire have also given us great cause for concern. I have complained to ministers that it was a significant and regrettable oversight that Government advisors failed to require a through train to Cleethorpes and Grimsby via Market Rasen in the invitation to bid for the franchise of the East Coast Main Line.

However I am happy to report that I learned from ministers (also at Transport Questions this past month) that there will be an influx of funds to improve services in the East Midlands. This past month, the Government announced major service enhancements on the Nottingham to Lincoln line, which will provide an extra twenty-four trains from next May. We’ve already had the pleasure of an investment of around £70 million to improve line speeds on the Midlands Maine Line up to 125 miles per hour. Further investment will see electrification extended to Corby in 2017 and Sheffield in 2020.

Otherwise we have had a fairly meaty debate on the Fixed Term Parliament Act, or rather on getting rid of it. The fixed parliamentary term of five years is far too long, and the bars to seeking an early dissolution are an assault on democracy. It is only too right that we seek to renew the democratic mandate of Parliament by going to the people in a general election every few years. Sometimes this is as quickly as a year or two, but most often it’s between three and four or so years. Five years means you have a front-loaded parliament, with lots of laws passed in the first few years, and then very few in the latter years, as we are experiencing now.

The possibility of dissolving Parliament and calling elections, combined with the first past the post system by which we chose MPs, are what we have traditionally relied upon to provide this country with strong parliamentary governments capable of delivering on their promises to voters. Furthermore this important constitutional change was delivered with almost no public debate, and with its primary reason to keep two unloving coalition partners together. It should be scrapped and we should return to the better-working system at the nearest instance.

Sir Edward Leigh

MP for Gainsborough