“Actually we re-wrote the terms of it, to make sure that the review does look beyond the South east.
“Clearly there is a south east issue here, which is the country’s hub status and clearly we have to ask questions about how we maintain hub status.”
Mr Cameron said Birmingham Airport had a bright future, partly because of the planned high speed rail line known as HS2, which will cut journey times between the airport and central London to just 38 minutes.
“We shouldn’t ignore what regional airports can provide and also Birmingham Airport post HS2 will be an interesting proposition. It certainly is included in the review.”
Mr Cameron also waded into the ongoing row between the his government and Virgin Trains, which is taking the Department for Transport to court after it lost the franchise to run inter-city services on the West Coast Main Line – warning that they should “respect the outcome” of the franchise contest.
The legal challenge has prevented the Department from signing contracts with new operator FirstGroup, which is due to take over services on December 9. I asked whether the row would be resolved in time for the new franchise to begin running as planned.
Mr Cameron said: “I think it will be resolved. I have to be careful what I say, there are all sorts of processes and procedures. But basically I think the process is now working to deliver what people want, which is investment and services and more people using our railways.
“What the winner of this particular franchise was offering was more services, more seats, some fare reductions and also billions of pounds to the taxpayer as well. Now, if you don’t have a franchise process you can’t try to capture those benefits.” His Cabinet reshuffle, which saw former Transport Secretary and HS2 supporter Justine Greening moved to a new department, did not mean any shift in the Government’s support for HS2, he said. “I want to see it built. I have always been a fan of high speed rail.”
Referring to the existing high speed line linking London to the Channel Tunnel, known as HS1, he said; “I have seen what the HS1 line through Kent has done for that area. High Speed Rail can transform economies.
High speed rail can transform economiesDavid Cameron
“Lots of things have been tried in regional policy and some things have worked a bit and some things haven’t worked at all, but one thing that absolutely works is transport arteries that can get the economic blood flowing.”
The recent reshuffle meant a new job for Birmingham MP Andrew Mitchell (Con Sutton Coldfield), who became Chief Whip, but Meriden MP Caroline Spelman was fired from her job as Environment Secretary. I put it to Mr Cameron that some people believed Mrs Spelman, who was widely blamed for unpopular plans to private forests, had been treated unfairly.
The Prime Minister appeared to agree, saying: “Reshuffles are unfair. Caroline Spelman did a very good job at Defra. I think there’s a lot she can be proud of in her record. The truth is you have to move some people on in order to bring in new talent. It’s a very difficult process. I think Caroline was very understanding.”
Praising Mr Mitchell, he said: “You need a really tip top whips office and I think that’s exactly what he will provide. Focus and drive and dynamism.”
Public spending cuts have been controversial not only because of their impact on jobs but because of the effect on public services – not least West Midlands Fire Service, which has had central government funding cut by 12.5 per cent.
Mr Cameron rejected the warning of the Chief Fire Officer, Vijith Randeniya, who told MPs at the Communities and Local Government Select Committee that lives would be put at risk if the cuts continued at the same level.
Mr Cameron said: “I will certainly look at it. Fire services have done a good job in terms of education. I think efficiencies can be made without there being any threat to life.”
“Birmingham has had to take its share of reductions. Overall I think the reduction in spending power is about four per cent overall, which is about the same as nationwide.
“Funding per person in Birmingham is over £600, compared to an average nationwide of something like £500. In my constituency its only £240 a head.
“Everyone is having to bare their share of a difficult spending situation. What I have found looking around the country at local government, at police, at fire, is that they have managed to do it.
“Just as businesses have had to trim their costs every year but provide a good service, local government has to do the same.”
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