Yorkshire MP accuses ministers of 'burying their heads in the sand' over north-south funding gap

A Yorkshire MP has accused the Department for Transport of having its "head in the sand" over the huge disparity in rail investment between London and the rest of the country.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones was appointed Rail Minister in November 2018

Labour MP for Hull North, Diana Johnson, made the claim as she confronted the new rail minister - Harrogate MP Andrew Jones - during a Westminster debate on the UK’s rail industry.

She also demanded that the region gets its “fair share” of rail cash, after years of losing out to the Capital and said she hoped Mr Jones - who replaced Jo Johnson as rail minister in November last year - would push for a more equal funding settlement across the country, given his position as a Yorkshire MP.

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MPs were discussing a recent report, released by the Transport Committee, which laid bare the stark differences in the amount of transport cash being spent in London compared to other UK regions.

Diana Johnson is Labour MP for Hull North

According to the latest Treasury figures, while the Capital received Government funding of £773 per person in 2016-17, Yorkshire only saw £137 per head over the same period - below the national average of £249.

A study from think tank IPPR found that future transport spending commitments were equally unbalanced, with London set to get £1900 per head from 2017 onwards compared to £400 per head in the north.

Ms Johnson said: “The Department for Transport seem to put their head in the sand whenever they are challenged on these figures about the regional disparity.

Turning to Mr Jones, she added: “We might now see, hopefully with this new minister, recognition that the north hasn’t had it’s fair share and we will now start to get our fair share.”

Transport Committee chair Lilian Greenwood said: “In our report we looked in detail at the disparity of funding for investment across the country.

“Of course the Capital’s size and population mean it’s unsurprising that there is more spending in absolute terms in London than other regions.

“But there is also a substantial disparity in spending per capita in London, at £773 per head in 2016-17, than in other regions.”

Expressing optimism about Mr Jones’ appointment to the department, she added: “I always found that he was a minister who was genuinely prepared to listen.”

Bradford South MP, Judith Cummins, who was also present at the debate, said: “This report must be a wakeup call for the Government. We need action.

“Action to rebalance our economy. Action to boost our regions. Action to give places like Bradford transport infrastructure which is fit for the twenty-first century.”

Rounding up the debate, Mr Jones said: “Our decisions follow a rigorous and fair appraisal process which ensures that spending goes to programmes where it is needed and that it delivers value for money taxpayers and passengers.

“This sometimes means that spending appears higher in some areas compared to others.”