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  • Dec 16, 2014:
    • UK Film Investment (Tax Relief) | Westminster Hall debates

      Does my hon. Friend agree that the important thing is to consider the future of the film industry and particularly the young people who are involved in it? Whatever is the case, it is certainly not the fault of young people looking for a future in the film industry. I spoke to a young man-a Kendal college film student-called Emilio Methven on Friday. He did a survey of his fellow students over the weekend, and they want investment in the film industry going forward and more apprenticeships. They want the UK Government to demonstrate that in backing the UK film industry, they are going to back UK film students. They do not want a sense of there being a retrospective potential attack on the film industry that makes their future much harder to establish.

  • Dec 1, 2014:
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  • Oct 28, 2014:
    • Non-domestic Rates: Westmorland | Department for Communities and Local Government | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, how many shops in Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency have benefited from the reduction in business rates.

    • Furness Line | Westminster Hall debates

      It continues to be a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. Given the strategic importance of the Furness line and the clear and impressive expansion of demand into the future, surely now is the time to plan to upgrade services, not downgrade them. Nothing would strengthen confidence in the line more than a commitment to electrification. Will the Minister help provide that confidence by setting out a timetable for electrification of the Furness line, and will she give us an undertaking that at the very least a feasibility study will be done of that electrification project?

      I want us to be positive and optimistic about rail services in Cumbria, in north Lancashire and across the whole region. This week's talk of High Speed 3 is music to my ears, although the suggestion that it might only be an enhanced line from Manchester to Leeds is somewhat underwhelming. An HS3 to boost northern England would run from Hull to Liverpool, creating a coast-to-coast corridor of growth. Electrification of the lakes line shows that our ambition in the south lakes has paid off, but that optimism is challenged when it comes to the Furness line. I want that to change. The line serves a uniquely booming industry, Britain's most important tourist destination-the Lake district-and a growing and vibrant residential and commercial community in South Lakeland. There is no logical reason for the Furness line to be anything other than equally booming. My plea to the Minister is to use her influence to prevent the mistakes that would undermine that success, and to instead back a winner.

    • Furness Line | Westminster Hall debates

      It is a huge pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. As I give the Minister time to settle, I advise her that I will be sitting down sooner than I would otherwise in order to let the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), my friend and constituency neighbour, contribute to this debate, which is at least as important to his constituency as to mine.

      The Furness line is a vital rail route through my constituency. It is an arterial route used by residents in the Kent estuary and across the wider Cartmel peninsula. I am therefore grateful for this opportunity to highlight the large challenges facing the line and, as a result, the communities and the economy to which it is so vital. I will talk about the future of the line, its immense significance to the local and national economy, the need for new investment and the need for the Department for Transport to take seriously the responses to its recent stakeholder consultation on the TransPennine Express and Northern Rail franchises.

      The Furness line takes passengers and freight from the main line at Lancaster through to Barrow, with the largest section of the line running through my constituency and the South Lakeland district. There are stations at Arnside, Grange-over-Sands, Kents Bank and Cark, which are well used and take tourists, commuters and schoolchildren, among others, to and from destinations along this economically vital and uniquely picturesque line.

      I am hugely indebted to the work of those who put together the exhaustive 90-page Furness line study created by the Railway Consultancy Ltd, which the Minister displays. The study was supported by the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness. The Minister has already seen the report, but as she has demonstrated, I made a point of forwarding an additional copy to her ahead of this debate.

      The Minister will see that the report is dedicated to the memory of Peter Robinson, whose sudden death on 6 August devastated all of us who knew him. Peter was chair of the Furness Line Community Rail Partnership and the source of all knowledge and wisdom on Furness line matters. I was with him at a meeting on the future of the Furness line just a day or three before he passed away. It was an honour to know Peter, and he is hugely missed.

      The report that Peter helped to author is an extremely important piece of work. I am a regular user of the line, but I was nevertheless shocked by the full extent of the failings of the current transport infrastructure and its wider impacts. The report concludes that the Furness line is not fit to meet present demand, much less to cope with the expected population and employment booms in Barrow and Ulverston in the coming years, which I am sure the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness will talk about in due course. We are committed to working together across parties to build a future-proof Furness line.

      As well as thanking those who created the report, I thank its funders-local councils, businesses and rail operators-and the hon. Gentleman, whose work has been instrumental in bringing the report to fruition,

      and whose commitment to defending the line is second to none. The report highlights the line's short-term and long-term needs. In the short term, the report calls for the urgent return of the two-hourly Manchester airport service and additional trains during the tourist season. Given that this is the line that serves the western Lake district, I hope the Minister will publicly indicate her support and give a clear signal to the rail operators that residents, commuters, the vastly important tourism sector and the wider business community all need the service.

      The report also suggests a rationalised timetable and highlights the inadequate number of trains between Barrow and Lancaster on weekday mornings, which prevents residents from commuting by train. The undermining of the line in recent times is apparent in the fact that the Barrow to Manchester airport service has reduced from eight to five trains a day; the Manchester airport to Barrow service has been reduced from 10 to five trains a day since 2007.

      Manchester is the business capital of the north-west. Barrow-in-Furness is at risk of being left as one of the few major towns in the north of England without high-quality direct access to that regional capital and its international airport. Many of my constituents, particularly in Grange, Flookburgh, Cark, Cartmel, Allithwaite and Arnside, commute by train and have been hit by that downgrading. Children who would have had safer, quicker journeys to school are now forced to take longer, more costly and more dangerous trips instead. The hugely significant local tourism economy, which is worth £3 billion a year, has been damaged unnecessarily. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us much more encouraging news. I would be grateful if she confirmed that she sees improving the Furness line as being in the long-term economic interests of the region and the nation, and that its success will be prioritised.

      The reduction in through trains to and from Manchester means that many passengers now have to use the Manchester to Scotland services between Lancaster and Manchester. The new four-coach electric trains have shorter carriages than the previous three-coach class 185 diesels, and the limited increase in capacity is proving to be dramatically insufficient to meet the needs of both Scottish and Furness passengers-standing is a regular, if not daily, occurrence. Additionally, the downgrading of those services has exacerbated problems with bus links, which the Furness line study identifies as a major issue. Joining up the connections between public transport is vital, and I hope that the Minister will give her support to significant improvements.

      The study calls for train operators to co-operate with the area's biggest businesses to ensure that arrivals and departures coincide with shift patterns. The report states:

      "Timetable analysis shows some very significant failings in the level of service provided… the current service is not fit for purpose, through failing frequency, capacity… We have been appalled to discover that significant existing markets are not being addressed, leading to major losses of traffic. The shortfall in service provision is so great here that there is an overwhelming case for immediate action."

      Looking to the future, the report has a vision for the line right through to 2030. It takes into account the expansion of BAE Systems in Barrow, GlaxoSmithKline in Ulverston and the proposed nuclear power station at

      Moorside. It accurately envisages significant increases in local population and employment, due in part to the far-sighted and successful land allocation strategy of South Lakeland district council. The report is also correct in foreseeing that industrial developments for major employers at Ulverston will lead to a 16% increase in jobs over the next few years, and that all those people will need to get to work.

      There can be no doubt that demand will continue to rise. In the longer term, a regular hourly local service calling at all stations needs to be supplemented by faster regional services to and from Manchester airport. The lakes line between Oxenholme and Windermere is scheduled to be electrified in 2016; the study suggests that an increase in the number of trains on the Furness line would justify its eventual electrification by 2030. Virgin Trains should be asked to investigate the operation of through-to-London services from Barrow, with their introduction possibly on an initial two-to-three-year "use it or lose it" basis. Will the Minister use her good offices to help us make that case to Virgin Trains?

      Industrial growth, an expansion in resident populations and a huge increase in the tourism economy suggest that the Furness line's future should be very bright indeed; the purpose of this debate is to seek the Minister's help in ensuring that it is. However, as we seek support to protect and enhance the line's long-term future, we are horrified that short-term decisions in the immediate future may fatally undermine that work.

      The Minister will know that the Department's suggested remapping of the TransPennine Express and Northern Rail franchises has undergone a recent stakeholder consultation. She will also know that, along with many others, I responded to that consultation. On behalf of my constituents, I once again urge her not to proceed with the proposed transfer of the Furness and Windermere lines to the new Northern franchise. She should be clear that making that decision would significantly downgrade the Furness line and would constitute a huge blow to our local economy.

      The majority of services on the Furness line are operated by TransPennine Express. Since the announcement last March that TransPennine Express is to lose its fleet of nine class 170 units, there has been intense speculation about the effect on train services in the north. Despite efforts to find a solution, there are apparently no spare diesel units available. Unless there is political intervention at a high level, we could see TransPennine Express move out of the Furness line at the timetable change in May 2015, when the class 170 units are due to transfer to the south of England. We can only assume that the Furness line will be relegated to being a branch service between Barrow and Lancaster, operated by Northern from next May using lower-quality trains.

      The Minister will know that Northern has accumulated a reputation on the Furness line for its high number of cancellations. That has been going on for some years now. I am sure that both the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness and I would be happy to furnish her with details of those cancellations. Northern is aware of the debate, but still cancels trains. She will understand why residents and business leaders of south Cumbria are staggered by the Department for Transport proposal that all Furness line trains be transferred to Northern at the commencement of the new franchise in 2016.

      The Minister will know that I have written to the Secretary of State on the matter. I am hopeful that the Department will understand the hugely damaging effect that such a transfer would have. Will she agree to rethink the suggestion and consider retaining TransPennine Express services on the Furness line? I am sure that the Minister will agree that at a time when we need the Furness line to be geared to the forthcoming high level of investment and job expansion in the area, the initial proposals make depressing news indeed. [Interruption.]

  • Oct 21, 2014:
    • Topical Questions | Oral Answers to Questions - Health | Commons debates

      NHS England has identified south Cumbria as one of just three places in England where travel times to receive radiotherapy are unacceptably and debilitatingly long. Will the Secretary of State meet me and NHS England to talk about how Kendal hospital can be the place for a new radiotherapy centre this autumn?

    • Children's Mental Health Services | Oral Answers to Questions - Health | Commons debates

      A local report on mental health and emotional resilience among young people in South Lakeland found that the stigma surrounding mental health and the lack of sufficient resources over time mean that distressed and panic-stricken families often do not know how to begin to access the support that their children desperately need. How can my right hon. Friend help us get swift, clear and obvious access to mental health care for young people?

  • Oct 13, 2014: