With the Conservative Party led by David Cameron victorious at the recent election, the face of the government has changed somewhat. However, it has not been a complete change round, retaining a number of familiar faces including George Osborne (Chancellor), Theresa May (Home Secretary), Philip Hammond (Foreign Secretary) and Michael Fallon (Defence Secretary). Also keeping his place in government is the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, who continues as Secretary of State for Transport. He was first appointed to this role in 2012. With the Conservatives taking a majority share of the seats in Parliament, Liberal Democrat Minister of State for Transport, Baroness Kramer, has left her post.
Andrew Jones becomes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport. He is the MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough. Harrogate is one of the towns which will benefit from the Conservative backed High Speed rail link. He has previously served as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Justine Greening when she was Transport Secretary.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has not been given a Department of State. However, he is to attend the ‘political cabinet’, a smaller gathering of senior Party figures tasked with overall strategy.
David Cameron’s government has also seen an increase of women entering or attending the cabinet. Among them are Amber Rudd, who becomes Energy and Climate Change Secretary; Baroness Stowell, who is the new Leader of the Lords and Lord Privy Seal; Priti Patel, who is the Employment Minister and Anna Soubry, who is Minister for Small Businesses.
The Conservative Party’s manifesto pledged to rebalance the economy. As part of this, it promised to build what it called a Northern Powerhouse. It aims to connect up the north with modern transport links in an effort to enable cities in the region to better pool their strengths. An investment of £13bn was mentioned, which would be used to electrify the main rail routes, build the Northern Hub and provide new trains for the north. Upgrades to the A1, M62, M1 and A555 link road are also on the cards.
To stimulate the economy in the south west, the Party plans to improve connections in the region with major investments in the M5, A358, A30 and A303, as well as the electrification of the Great Western Main Line. The Midlands is set to receive a record £5.2bn for its transport network, with upgrades to the M1 and M6, along with electrifying the Midland Main Line from St Pancras to Sheffield. Improved rail connections to East Anglia were promised too, delivering ‘Norwich in 90 minutes’ and ‘Ipswich in 60 minutes’ and upgrading of key roads like the A11 and A47 are also included.
As part of its plans to maintain all the current pensioner benefits, free bus passes are planned to remain until the next Parliament.
Devolution of powers and budgets to local areas was mentioned in the manifesto, which includes powers over economic development, transport and social care. It promised to legislate to create a directly elected Mayor for Greater Manchester. Pilot projects in Cambridgeshire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire East were announced that would allow local councils to retain 100% of growth in business rates, which are expected to enable them to reap the benefit of decisions that boost growth locally. Delivering more bespoke Growth Deals with local councils was also mentioned, as was the backing of Local Enterprise Partnerships.
A transformation of the railway was promised by the Party, with an investment of £38bn pledged in the five years to 2019. As well as rolling out the various High Speed rail projects, it also plans to push forward with Crossrail 2, a new rail route running through London and connecting Surrey and Hertfordshire, in addition to completing construction of the new east-west Crossrail across Greater London. It promised to keep commuter rail fares frozen in real terms for the whole of the next Parliament. The introduction of smart ticketing and part time season tickets is to be promoted. There will be a push requiring rail companies to improve compensation arrangements for passengers when trains are late.
Investments of £15bn are also included for roads, including the dualling and widening of the A1 north of Newcastle and the first new trans-Pennine road capacity in over 40 years. The Party promised to take action on some of the most notorious problems on the road network, including the A303, A47 and A27. An extra 1,300 additional lane miles is planned for the road network with extra funding to fix potholes.