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Tim Farron's Recent Appearances in Parliament

Tim Farron speaking on unaccompanied refugees (Liberal Democrat Newswire)Content supplied and updated by theyworkforyou.com

  • Jan 16, 2020:
  • Jan 15, 2020:
    • A Green Industrial Revolution | Commons debates

      It is always a massive joy to follow the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart). It is also great to see you back in your place, Mr Deputy Speaker; congratulations on your re-elevation.

      It has been a genuine privilege to sit through the maiden speeches by the hon. Members for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana), for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho) and for Birmingham, Northfield (Gary Sambrook), to whom I pay tribute. I wish to single out my new neighbour, the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell), who made an excellent maiden speech and referred in particular to the need-I say this in hearing range of the Secretary of State for Transport-to strip Arriva Northern of its franchise, to make sure that we have a local train service that actually runs some trains.

      I remember giving my maiden speech; the terrifying fact is that I have a copy of it on a VCR tape in the garage. That is a reminder that I am indeed an old git, Mr Deputy Speaker.

      The green industrial revolution is nothing if not an ambitious title, and so it needs to be if we are to head off the existential threat of catastrophic climate change. Ambition is indeed what we need, but although we can give something an impressive and ambitious title, it is unlikely to earn a lasting legacy unless it actually delivers. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's new deal is not still invoked today because of its catchy title, but because of the good it achieved. We marvel at the Victorian expansion of the railways not because the Victorians did good spin, but because the network was actually built. Nations are never built on public relations stunts.

      Members can call me a glass-half-empty person if they like, but my fear for the Government is that they will make two significant mistakes as they decide how they are going to use their new majority. First, in order to mask the damage that the UK's leaving the world's biggest market will inevitably do to our economy and public sector, it is likely that the Government will max-out the credit card on revenue spending in a way that makes the recent Labour manifesto look fiscally conservative by comparison. Secondly, they will talk about big infrastructure investment, both the green and the not-so-green varieties, but in reality their fear of big government means they will not deliver anything that will make a true difference. In other words, the Government will show largesse when they should observe restraint, and restraint when they need to be ambitious. I hope I am wrong, because what we need is to be wise on revenue spending and ambitious on capital, particularly when it comes to green infrastructure. We must make the big strategic decisions needed to fight climate change.

      In South Lakeland, we see nature changing before our very eyes, as climate change takes place with horrific consequences. Our communities are still reeling, four years on, from the devastating floods of Storm Desmond. Indeed, in the past decade or so we have been hit by three floods, each one of them classified as a one-in-200-year event. Storm Desmond flooded 7,500 homes and more than 1,000 businesses. We have to mitigate the impact of climate change on families and businesses while building the infrastructure to prevent a climate catastrophe. That is why Kendal's flood prevention scheme must be delivered. All three phases of the flood scheme are now fully funded and I am glad that, after much pressure, the biggest concerns about the scheme have now been answered. In the place of every tree that must be removed as part of the scheme, six new ones will be planted in the town, and many of them will be semi-mature at the point of planting.

      I was there the morning after Storm Desmond, and in the weeks after. I saw people's lives ruined; families left destitute; and businesses wiped out. Even today, there are children who still unable to sleep any time it begins to rain. I could not look people in the eye on Appleby Road, Shap Road, Sandylands, Ann Street or Mintsfeet Road if I did not do everything in my power to deliver them some kind of protection and some kind of peace of mind. After four years of promises-four years of fear whenever it pours; four years of incalculable strain on mental health for the old and young alike-how dare I claim to represent them if I do not see the flood defences delivered? The reality is that we are too late to prevent climate change, but we have perhaps a dozen years to avoid a major climate catastrophe with even more appalling human consequences.

      The main issue that I wish to focus on in the next few moments is the revolution that we need in public transport. Over the past 30 years, Governments of all colours have allowed funding for bus provision to evaporate. Our communities in South Lakeland have done a spectacular job in putting together community bus services to plug some of the gaps caused by this attrition of Government funding, most notably the Dales bus service in Sedbergh and Dent, which does a wonderful job connecting those Dales communities with Kendal and the surrounding communities. We have fought recently to keep the 552 and the 530 bus services. These are great victories. I am immensely proud of them, but they are short-term solutions at best. They are sticking plasters, when what is needed is ambitious change.

      It is utterly ludicrous that bus services in London receive a £722 million annual subsidy, when in Cumbria we receive nothing at all-not a single penny. The lack of subsidy has a catastrophic impact on fares, and the extortionate prices make commuting by bus a massive challenge, especially for lower-paid workers. How is it right, Mr Speaker, that the 5 mile journey from Ambleside to the neighbouring community of Grasmere costs £4.90, while a journey of equivalent length in London costs £1.50? If we are to entertain any hope of revolutionising public transport, the Government need to look beyond the M25-well beyond the M25. Indeed, it may come as a surprise to some in Government that the north does not stop at junction 32 of the M6.

      There is much to recommend the northern powerhouse, with two slight caveats: first, it is not much of a powerhouse; and secondly, it is not very northern. The transport spend in the north-west per head of population is still barely half that in London, despite the promises that were made when the northern powerhouse was first established. I will continue-I will have to continue-to fight the cuts to individual bus services. I will continue to stand with, and work with, the community to find alternative solutions, just as we are currently doing for Arnside, Levens, Cartmel, Hincaster and Kendal where we have replaced the 552 and the 530 services, but let us be honest, all that will do is lessen the decline.

      Bus services are essential to life for rural communities such as ours. They are also key to Cumbria's vibrant tourism industry. No one could or would deny that the Lake District and the surrounding communities are utterly awesome. It is a national treasure and a source of joy to many more than just those of us who are privileged enough to live among those lakes, mountains and dales.

      Cumbria's Lake District is Britain's biggest visitor destination outside London. Some 16 million people visited us last year alone, but 83% of tourists travel to us by car. However, we know that, with the right interventions and conditions, our visitors will travel sustainably. Public bus transport is a key component of that, alongside rail, boats, bikes and, of course, walking in the hills. Improved bus services could alleviate pressure on the roads that become clogged with the cars of those visiting.

      The Government keep ignoring the plight of rural communities. A so-called green industrial revolution in London or Manchester simply will not do. We would love it if they stopped ignoring us, and instead commission a truly ambitious and comprehensive rural bus service to exceed anything that we have seen before, even 35 years ago before the deregulation which started to decline. It will be an investment not only that revives rural communities and sees a huge reduction in the use of cars locally, but that boosts our economy and increases access to jobs.

      My proposal today is that the Minister should ensure the direct commissioning through Transport for the North of a comprehensive, affordable, reliable rural bus network in Cumbria-a network that will be a substantial step towards ensuring that the northern powerhouse actually serves the rural north.

      Finally, if our efforts to tackle climate change are going to come anywhere near something that could be classified as a revolution, we need to transform public transport interconnection and that connection between buses and trains. The main public transport route to the Lake District is the Lakes line. Back in 2017, the Government cancelled the planned electrification of the Lakes line on the basis of a massive and flawed overestimation of the project costs. This was and remains a huge let-down for communities around the lakes, and yet electrification of the Lakes line is the easiest electrification project in the country. The 12-mile route carries hundreds of thousands of passengers each year, but it could carry four times as many if we introduced a passing loop at Burneside so that we could run a half-hourly service, and if it were electrified, it would significantly reduce its carbon emissions.

      If the Government are serious about tackling climate change, they need to undo their foolish cuts to the electrification project, and the Lakes line is the perfect place for the Government to begin a green U-turn to reverse their mistakes of recent years. The Lakes line is short, but it is iconic. It carries significant numbers and could carry so many more. I plead with the Government to make their actions match their words. They should not just plug the gaps in public transport, but instead revolutionise the system. They should speak not of subsidies, but of investment that multiplies its value in the economy of the rural north. Targets are dangerous if they are simply a fig leaf to cover up a failure to act in the present. The Government must act now, and we will wait to see whether they do.

  • Jan 13, 2020:
  • Jan 9, 2020:
    • Marking Exit Day | Exiting the European Union | Commons debates

      Even the most ardent supporter of Brexit will, I am sure, share a concern that the UK's departure from the European Union might be depicted as representing insularity and nationalism. It is therefore important that we dispel that sense, and one way in which we could do so is to sign up long term to the vulnerable refugees resettlement scheme and, indeed, to accept in full the Dubs amendment and do our best by the most vulnerable people on this planet, child refugees.

  • Jan 8, 2020:
    • Main power in connection with other separation issues | European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill | Commons debates

      A lot of the DUP's amendments are about trying to secure the future of access to UK markets for Northern Ireland farmers. That is massively important to farmers in Cumbria as well, vice versa across the Irish sea. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government have today announced at the Oxford farming conference that they are refusing to delay the phase-out of the basic payment scheme, which makes up 85% of the income of English livestock farmers, and that their doing so would massively undermine Britain's farming economy and our ability to provide food security and protect our historic landscape?

  • Jan 7, 2020:
    • Radiotherapy | Department of Health and Social Care | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will place in the Library a list of each location, including postcode, at which radiotherapy commissioned via the NHS in England is delivered by the (i) NHS and (ii) private sector; and if he will make a statement.

    • Frontline Health Services | Treasury | Commons debates

      Some 50% of people living with cancer require radiotherapy treatment, and yet only 5% of the cancer budget is spent on radiotherapy. What that means in real terms is that constituents of mine have to make two, three or four-hour roundtrips to get life-saving daily treatment. Will the Chancellor commit to spending money on radiotherapy provision, to provide satellite units at places such as Westmorland General Hospital?

  • Oct 29, 2019:
    • Petition - West Cumbria coal mine | Commons debates

      I present a petition on behalf of 1,852 residents of Cumbria who oppose the proposed West Cumbrian coal mine, believing, as I do, that in the fight to prevent climate catastrophe, it is vital that we keep fossil fuels in the ground. The petitioners request that the Secretary of State call in the application for his own determination at the earliest opportunity and that he rule against the opening of the mine.

      Following is the full text of the petition:

      [The petition of people of the United Kingdom,

      Declares that a local petition has been collected against the proposed west Cumbria coal mine which should not be opened on account of the impact on the climate.

      The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to call this application in for its own determination at the earliest opportunity and that it rules against the opening of the mine.

      And the petitioners remain, etc.]

      [P002536]

    • Social Security Benefits: Appeals | Department for Work and Pensions | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to ensure that the mandatory reconsideration process is an effective means of redress for applicants who have not been awarded personal independence payment.

    • Social Security Benefits: Appeals | Department for Work and Pensions | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the mandatory reconsideration process.

    • Bus Services: Cumbria - [Dame Cheryl Gillan in the Chair] | Endometriosis Workplace Support | Westminster Hall debates

      Thank you, Dame Cheryl.

      The reality, whether we like it or not, is that climate change is happening. The question is whether we can prevent a climate catastrophe that will have huge impacts on human beings in this country and across the globe. Tackling this global disaster will take change in every community and lots of steps that add up to a bigger picture. Public transport is an element of that. In order for there to be success globally, we in the Lakes are determined to act locally. Our community bus services prove that determination.

      Two new platforms are being funded and opened at Manchester Piccadilly railway station. That important public investment in infrastructure and the economy through the northern powerhouse is good news, but where is the equivalent for the rural north? The transport spend in the north-west per head of population is still barely half that in London, despite promises made when the northern powerhouse was formed. I will continue to fight the cuts to individual bus services. I will continue to stand with and work with the community to find alternative solutions, just as we are currently doing for Arnside, Levens, Cartmel, Hincaster and Kendal. But let us be honest: that is not good enough. The concept of the northern powerhouse is great, but from Cumbria's perspective it is not much of a powerhouse and it is not very northern.

      If new platforms at Manchester Piccadilly are an investment that will boost the Manchester city region's economy, a comprehensive bus service in rural Cumbria is the investment to boost the Cumbrian economy, so that is my proposal today: that the Minister should ensure the direct commissioning of a comprehensive, affordable and reliable rural bus network in Cumbria. Will the Minister do that as a key plank of the northern powerhouse?

      The bus service running through the south Lakes along the A6 and the A591 is the 555. Running from Lancaster to Keswick, it serves Milnthorpe, Kendal, Staveley, Windermere, Ambleside and Grasmere. It is a reliable service, but extremely expensive. The Kendal to Ambleside journey was recently revealed as the second most expensive route in the country. But if we look at the 555 as the trunk service, what we have seen over the last 30 years has been the slow but steady hacking off of the twigs and the branches. If people do not live in one of the communities along the main south Lakes route, they are more than likely without a bus service. Therefore, what I am asking for is a new commissioned service that will bring back buses to every community and breathe new life into the public transport of the Lakes.

      If the Government keep ignoring the plight of rural communities, we will keep fighting for ourselves, rolling up our sleeves, making our own luck and finding solutions against the odds, but we would love it if they would stop ignoring us and instead commission a comprehensive rural bus service to exceed anything that we have seen before, even 35 years ago before deregulation. It will be an investment that revives rural communities, boosts our economy, tackles isolation and connects our towns and villages. I plead with the Minster to be ambitious and to back that proposal.

    • Bus Services: Cumbria - [Dame Cheryl Gillan in the Chair] | Endometriosis Workplace Support | Westminster Hall debates

      The hon. Lady's intervention is very appropriate. I am certain that her communities will have had similar experiences to mine. In the end, investment in public transport is just that. People use the word subsidy, but we are talking about an investment, because the impact on local communities, their economy and the wellbeing of the people who live in them of having these services is worth the money we put into them. It makes more money in terms of the multiplier, so her point is well made and I am grateful to her for making it.

      Over the next three weeks we will work together to try to provide a long-term solution to the proposed loss of the 552 and the 530 services. We are grateful to have managed to persuade Stagecoach to give us that stay of execution. As I said, in a large rural area with a dispersed population, it is hard for bus services to be run on a commercial basis and, unlike many urban areas, we cannot rely on the private sector to fill the gaps when funding disappears. In fact, none of the recent services that have been cut has since been taken up by a commercial provider. Once they are gone, they are usually gone for good.

      That is why I am so determined that we should find solutions now to protect or to replace the 530 and the 552 before they disappear. With no alternative bus service, those communities can easily become cut off. The average age in my patch is 10 years above the national average, and with a significantly larger older population the need for reliable, regular bus services is all the greater. Many people I know have found themselves alone and disconnected in their later years, the loss of bus services leaving them stranded in places that are utterly beautiful but utterly isolated.

      The steady erosion of our bus services comes at the worst time, when other key services are also being reduced. The closure of bank branches in places such as Milnthorpe, Grange, Sedbergh, Ambleside and Coniston in recent times, alongside the closure of shops and post offices, means that people rely even more on public transport to get to the bigger towns and villages, just as those public transport options are disappearing.

      That is why we were right to fight to expose Barclays for its dreadful plan to withdraw from the scheme that underpins our post offices, and I am relieved that Barclays has done a U-turn under pressure from many of us. However, it is a reminder that we need to ensure that the banks pay a fair price to the post offices that now fill the spaces that they left behind when they closed their branches and abandoned our communities.

      Many in our towns and villages rely on the buses for the basic tasks of daily life-shopping, doctor's appointments, seeing friends and family or getting to work. The 530 is the only bus route that serves the village of Levens. It is well used by residents to travel into Kendal to shop and to access other vital services. The same applies to the 552; without that service, there is no regular bus connection linking Arnside with the other major communities.

      We must also consider the impact of loneliness on physical and mental health. Let us imagine someone who lives in a small village and is unable to drive. If their one transport link is removed, they will find themselves increasingly cut off, unable to travel at the same time as they witness the closure of accessible services in the place they live, with more and more of the homes in their community becoming second homes that are empty for 90% of the year. With few neighbours and fewer local services, the loss of buses constitutes the loss of a vital lifeline and risks leaving many even more isolated and vulnerable.

      It is not only the elderly in our communities who are suffering from the reduced bus services. Young people's access to public transport is also under threat. Free school transport is provided for children up to sixth-form age, but after that the support is not available. It simply makes no sense for the Government to demand that young people carry on in education until they are 18 and then deny them the ability to afford to do so. In places such as Sedbergh and Coniston, it is often impossible to gain access to sixth-form provision at schools or colleges by public transport. There needs to be a statutory responsibility for local education authorities to guarantee home-to-school transport for 16 to 18-year-old students, in the same way that there is for the under-16s. However, there must also be the buses available to deliver that transport in the first place.

      Community bus services have filled the gap in some cases, as over the past 30 years Governments of all colours have allowed funding for bus provision to evaporate. To their absolute credit, communities have not just stood by. When the X12 from Coniston to Ulverston was cut, the community stepped up to run the service through fundraising and sheer determination, but it has not been easy. It is a service run in the face of obstacles thrown up by the Department for Transport's own rules.

      Similar stories could be told of the 106 between Kendal and Penrith, and of the 597 Windermere town bus. In Sedbergh the buses are now run by the community-run Western Dales Bus, set up after the cancellation of the 564 left Sedbergh entirely without a connection to the main town of Kendal. I am massively grateful to the volunteers who make those services possible. Indeed, it was a pleasure to be a volunteer driver myself on the Sedbergh bus just a few months ago. It was a great pleasure for the passengers too-at least, they were pleased when the experience was over.

      I am proud of our communities and proud of the bus services that so many groups run locally, working tirelessly to provide the best services they can, but it is a battle that comes at a personal cost. Our communities do a phenomenal job, but they should not have to. Urban areas would never settle for that absence of provision, so why should we?

      The Cumbria chamber of commerce last year consulted businesses throughout our county for their response to Transport for the North's strategic review. Inadequate bus services were cited repeatedly for the toll that they were taking on the ability of businesses to recruit staff. Put simply, staff have no means of getting to work. That is a particular issue for the tourism and hospitality industry, in which staff often have to start shifts early or finish late. Lack of buses also prevents businesses in the Lake district from recruiting staff from Barrow, where the employment pool is bigger and unemployment is higher.

      Bus services are essential to life for locals. They are also key to Cumbria's vibrant tourism industry. Cumbria's Lake district is Britain's second biggest visitor destination after London-16 million people visited us last year. A high proportion of visitors use their free bus passes while on holiday. That is subsidised by Cumbria County Council through funds provided by the Government, but calculated according to the number of people permanently living in our community. That calculation does not count the reality of the colossal number of tourists using the service. The funding does not even begin to reflect the number of passes used in our area, and local taxpayers end up picking up the shortfall. That is one reason why there is no money to subsidise public bus services in Cumbria; we are basically subsidising public transport for people from richer authorities who do not return the favour.

      It strikes me as bizarre, standing in London as I am, that bus services here receive a £722 million annual subsidy, while in Cumbria we receive absolutely nothing. The lack of subsidy has a catastrophic impact on fares, and the extortionate prices make commuting by bus a real challenge, especially for lower-paid workers. How is it right that the 5-mile bus journey from Ambleside to Grasmere-neighbouring communities-costs £4.90, while a journey of equivalent length in London costs £1.50? The Government subsidise buses in a big city where the market is not broken, but they refuse to help in rural areas where the market absolutely is broken.

      We are proud that so many people want to visit our area-we love to welcome you to Cumbria. Our tourism industry is invaluable to the economy, but investment in public services is essential to ensuring that tourism does not damage our local communities but helps them to thrive. We want to encourage our visitors to travel sustainably, but 85% of them use the motor car to get to our community and to travel around once they are there. However, we know that with the right interventions and conditions, our visitors will travel sustainably.

      Tourism sector deal zone proposals include a focus on sustainability, and public bus transport is a key component of that-so we welcome it-alongside rail, boats, bikes and, of course, walking. Improved bus services could alleviate pressure on the roads that become clogged with the cars of those visiting.

      The reality is that we are too late to prevent climate change, but we have perhaps a dozen years left to avoid a major climate catastrophe, with real and appalling human consequences. [Interruption.]

    • Bus Services: Cumbria - [Dame Cheryl Gillan in the Chair] | Endometriosis Workplace Support | Westminster Hall debates

      I beg to move,

      That this House has considered bus services in Cumbria.

      It is a huge privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl, and I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this massively important issue.

      To represent a part of Britain as breathtakingly beautiful as ours in south Cumbria-to stand here and speak up for communities in the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and the rest of the south Lakes-is the greatest privilege. It is an awesome place, and it is a huge place-the travel distances are immense. My constituency could contain every single one of the 73 constituencies that make up London, and we would be delighted to have the public transport options of just one of them. In such a vast and sparsely populated area as the south Lakes, public transport links are fundamental, yet so often they fall woefully short of meeting the needs of communities, and the provision that currently exists is coming under continuous and increasing threat.

      Cumbria suffers from rural transport poverty. The picture for the whole north-west region is pretty bleak; in the 10 years from 2008 to 2018 the north-west lost 888 separate, distinct services. That figure does not include the services that we have lost in the past year. We in Cumbria have been particularly badly hit, although we had a little good news last week when we won a temporary reprieve for two bus services in the south Lakes. Stagecoach agreed to continue running the 552 between Arnside and Kendal and the 530 between Cartmel, Levens and Kendal, but only for a further three weeks, while we look to put a longer-term solution in place.

      In a large rural area with a dispersed population, it is very hard for bus services to be run on a commercial basis. Unlike many urban areas, we cannot rely on the private sector to fill the gaps when funding disappears.

    • End-of-life Care | Health and Social Care | Commons debates

      Last week in the Queen's Speech debate, I mentioned a constituent of mine, Liz, who had declined the offer of palliative radiotherapy treatment simply because it would involve a four-hour round trip to get from the Lakes to Preston. Does the Minister agree that it is wrong for cancer patients to be forced to choose shorter lives because they cannot cope physically with the longer journeys?

  • Oct 24, 2019:
    • The Economy | Commons debates

      The Chancellor is being generous in giving way. As taxpayers, the British people collectively bailed out the banks a decade ago, and the banks have repaid taxpayers by closing down branches on every high street and in every village in the country. Just in the past two weeks, we have seen Barclays withdraw from the scheme that underpinned the Post Office, which now does its work for it. Will he stand up to Barclays and demand that it remains part of that Post Office scheme?

    • The Economy | Commons debates

      rose-

    • HS2 | Transport | Commons debates

      HS2 is an investment for the north of England, but it would be a lot more popular in the north of England if the trains actually stopped somewhere in the far north of England. At present, there are no plans whatsoever for HS2 trains to stop in Cumbria, even though the Lake District is the biggest visitor destination in the country after London. Will the Minister fix this immediately?