Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely has resigned from his role as a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) after refusing to back the Government’s controversial High Speed Rail (HS2) project in a Commons vote.
Bob said he could not support HS2 – the planned high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds – when there was a greater need for transport infrastructure investment in other areas of the UK, such as the Island.
Speaking about the decision, Bob has today (Wednesday) said:
“I knew that abstaining from the vote would mean I could not continue as a PPS but on the issue of HS2 I did not feel that I could in good faith vote to support it while having consistently spoken out about the spiralling costs of the project, whilst in the UK regions and in constituencies such as the Isle of Wight we have suffered from historic under-investment on infrastructure.
“I, like my predecessors, have continuously lobbied government on the significant challenges we face from being an Island. But for decades we have been overlooked – our ferry system was privatised without any public service obligations whilst the Island Line railway rolling stock dates from the 1930s”.
He has gone on to say:
“Government is beginning to listen. We have had some successes, such as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government finally recognising that in practical terms the Island is an Island and taking that into account in their funding formulas. The Department of Health has committed to looking into Island Funding and only last month both leadership contenders spoke favourably of an Island Deal. I am still pushing the Government to commit to investing in Island Line.
“The campaign for fair funding for the Island will be fact-based and scrutinised carefully by the government. That is the standard that we expect, but I don’t feel that this standard is being applied to HS2, a project that has seen its cost spiral out of control and which is likely to reach a staggering £400 million per mile of track.
“I have enjoyed my time as a PPS but my main focus has been – and will continue to be – on Island issues and representing the Island as the Island’s MP for as long as Islanders want me to do so.
“We are entering a new phase of Government with the imminent election of a new Party Leader and Prime Minister and I look forward to the opportunities that brings, especially in pushing hard for our Island agenda.”