Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Today in Parliament

At Welsh Questions today, Peter Hain welcomed the investment in nuclear power on Anglesey and criticised the loss of public sector jobs, with particular reference to Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan's sex. At the same time, he claimed credit for Labour for initiating the process which saw Wylfa on the shortlist for upgrading, but he didn't apologise for the shameful dithering over the decision which almost certainly led to the end of Anglesey Aluminium. Nor did he mention the Labour government's cutting a swathe through Inland Revenue offices and Job Centres throughout Wales, far more damaging to small businesses than the downsizing of the Newport Passport Office.

Elfyn Llwyd protested at the delay in confirming the extension of GW electrification from Didcot into South Wales. He has a point. As I understand it, the timing depends on a decision whether to order all-new train sets or to adapt the existing HS125s (refurbished not all that long ago) to electric working. There are also implications for ESW freight.

However, it seems from this report in the Independent of February 27th that this link with the plans to replace all the ageing InterCity trains was made long ago.

Lord Adonis [Labour Transport Secretary] said: "Over the course of the procurement there has been a reduction in the capacity of the debt market to support the transaction as originally envisaged, and passenger growth has also slowed." The Government's recent commitment to electrify the Great Western main line from 2016 also needs to be factored into the investment plans, he said. 

Finally, Steve Webb made a statement about pension uprating which showed why pensioners should be grateful not only that Liberal Democrat policies have been adopted by the coalition government but also that there is a pensions expert in charge. He coolly explained why the internationally recognised CPI was to be used as the price inflation indicator for public service pensions and as part of the triple-lock guarantee for state pensions. He pointed out that RPI could swing wildly and in September 2009 was actually negative. In reply to a question from Jenny Willott (LD, Caridff Central) he said that there was an inquiry into how home-owner costs could be incorporated into the CPI, while reminding the house that CPI already included rents. I felt that the BBC report did not do justice to a statement which is going to affect more people than the improvements to the tuition fee regime will.


Gareth Aubrey said...

To summarise the train deal, in classic Labour left-hand-not-knowing-who-the-right-hand-is-doing, they procured new trains on the basis that they'd be mostly diesel with some electric-diesel hybrids, then they announced the electrification which changed the specification.

Coalition is now saying it hasn't decided whether to stick with the original procurement (which would mean new diesel trains for the line) or electrify and buy bespoke electric trains instead.

Frank H Little said...

Many thanks, Gareth, for the elucidation. Presumably there are penalty fees payable if the original procurement is cancelled?