IT was, frankly, insulting to Yorkshire – and the North – that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling snubbed tonight's House of Commons debate about the region’s creaking infrastructure.
This exchange, led by Hull North MP Diana Johnson, was confirmed as early as October 31 – time for the Cabinet minister’s own diary to be rearranged if necessary to accommodate his Parliamentary duties.
Mr Grayling’s decision to abdicate responsibility, and ask his very junior minister Jesse Norman to respond on behalf of the Government, was all the more unforgivable because the Transport Secretary still managed to deliver a speech hours earlier in London about driverless cars.
Two conclusions can be drawn from this dereliction of duty that came as no surprise – either he has not got the political willpower to face down his critics or he does not truly grasp the public’s anger here about how the Government is already talking up the prospect of a second Crossrail scheme in London when its commitment to the Northern Powerhouse is far from assured.
This debate, after all, was called because Yorkshire MPs wanted to question Mr Grayling about an article that he wrote for The Yorkshire Post in August when he challenged the region to sort out its own transport difficulties after years of under-investment.
They wanted to know the rationale for downgrading plans to electrify two key railway lines and why Transport for the North, the body tasked with delivering infrastructure improvements, will not have the powers previously promised. As this newspaper revealed last week, its remit extends to ‘advising’ Mr Grayling, who retains the right to veto any plans put forward.
As such, Mr Grayling’s buck-passing perpetuates the view that he can’t be trusted to give Yorkshire the top-class railway infrastructure that London – and his Epsom constituents – enjoy.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "It is nonsense to suggest this is a snub. As minister for local transport, it is right that Jesse Norman should respond to this debate for the government."