DevComms director Charles Bushe reports on what the region’s MPs have been up to over the last month.

It was Planes, Trains and Automobiles in Westminster this month.

Whilst Alok Sharma (Reading West, Con) flew around the world on aeroplanes to talk climate change with various world leaders, the bill for the next phase of HS2 between the West Midlands and Crewe secured Royal Assent.

Unsurprisingly, this milestone was not welcomed by all members of Parliament from the Thames Valley, and, instead, a chorus of resistance, resignation and reproach swept across much of the valley.

On January 19, in a Commons debate on the subject, John Redwood (Wokingham, Con) unequivocally set out his stall, stating that the ‘whole project needs appraising’ as there will inevitably be a change in commuting patterns post-pandemic.

In the same session, Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham, Con) called it the ‘most expensive way to destroy lives and homes’.

A few days later, Greg Smith (Buckingham, Con) called for a full debate in Parliament on HS2 as a recent petition opposing the line had reached the 100,000-signature threshold to trigger another debate. Needless to say, Cheryl Gillan echoed his position and said that he spoke for every MP across Buckinghamshire.

In Slough, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Lab) criticised a purported reluctance from the Government to commit to delivering the line in full, specifically referencing the leg to Leeds, as he said they need to ensure northern towns and cities properly benefit.

Boris Johnson has since confirmed at Prime Minister’s Questions that the Government intends to develop ‘the whole of HS2’.

Staying with rail infrastructure, the Government recently announced funding for the next phase of East-West Rail between Bicester and Bletchley, which has been warmly welcomed by many Conservatives across the valley.

In Northern Buckinghamshire, Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North, Con) and Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South, Con) respectively branded the announcement as ‘fantastic news’ and ‘a huge boost’.

In Bicester, Victoria Prentis (Con) said that it would reinforce the town’s position as an attractive place to live and work, and in Henley, John Howell (Con) said it demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ‘building back better’.

Rob Butler (Aylesbury, Con) also supported the announcement, but called for a ‘vitally important’ spur to Aylesbury, while Greg Smith sent a letter to East-West Rail, saying that it enjoys broad support but that the manner in which it is being built is ‘downright appalling’.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Annaliese Dodds (Oxford East) struck a less jubilant tone, saying that the decision to install diesel-based rail infrastructure represented a waste of money, as it would cost far more to electrify the line at a later date.

Moving from planes and trains to automobiles, Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon, Lib Dem) has been extremely vocal over the past month regarding the ‘paused’ Oxford to Cambridge Expressway. She said it was incredibly disappointing that the Government hasn’t officially cancelled the plans, as ‘pause means that go is still an option’.

In the Commons on January 28, she suggested that the Government may be delivering the road by ‘stealth’, as ‘smaller chunks’ of the road infrastructure continue to be built.

And in other news…

  • Matt Rodda (Reading East, Lab) has written to the Ministry of Justice asking them to allow more time for Reading Borough Council to complete their bid to redevelop Reading Gaol. He also remains ‘deeply concerned’ about amended plans for redevelopment of Reading Golf Club.

And at the beginning of February, Steve Baker (Wycombe, Con) spoke again about his desire to regenerate High Wycombe town centre, reiterating that he’d like ‘lower business rates, fewer planning restrictions and properties returned to the private sector’.

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