The new members of the Transport Select Committee

Following the announcement of the Chair, the members of the Committee have now been appointed

I mentioned recently that Huw Merriman, the Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, had been elected as the new chair of the Transport Select Committee.

The members of the Committee have also now been announced. Including Huw Merriman, six are Conservatives, four are Labour and one is from the SNP.

Overall, it’s not an especially inspiring membership.

Five of the eleven members of the Committee were only elected as for the first time in the December 2019 general election and only four (Huw Merriman, Lilian Greenwood, Karl McCartney and Grahame Morris) have served on the Committee before.

So, it feels to me that it’s very much a “rookie” Committee.

Given the importance that transport has for our economy and social well-being, and given that transport impacts on everybody, every day, it’s always surprised me how little interest MPs show in transport policy from a national, as opposed to a constituency, point of view.

Junior player

Senior, heavyweight backbench MPs want to be members of the senior parliamentary Committees, such as the Public Accounts Committee or the Treasury Select Committee, while transport only ever seems to attract interest from relatively low profile, or even unknown MPs.

I just think it’s a shame, and a reflection that, for all of its importance, transport is still seen as a relative junior player in the overall scheme of things within the Westminster and Whitehall villages.

It’s worth noting that a number of the Committee members have rural constituencies – Robert Largan (the Conservative MP for High Peak), Chris Loder (Conservative, West Dorset), Simon Jupp (Conservative, East Devon) and Karl McCartney (Conservative, Lincoln) to name but four.

I have a hunch that the issue of poor rural public transport services, especially bus services, is going to be uppermost in these MP’s minds.

Bus policy

With a National Bus Strategy looming, the government having found a new interest in bus policy, Huw Merriman having expressed criticism of transport operators (both bus and rail) and having argued that bus routes should be designated as Assets of Community Value so that they are harder to close down, I think we can be pretty sure that bus policy is going to be a subject for an inquiry early on in this Committee’s programme.

Although perhaps aviation will be first in the queue following the Court of Appeal’s decision last week that the government’s approval of the third runway at Heathrow was illegal.

Either way, bus operators who operate in the constituencies which MPs on the Transport Select Committee represent need to make sure that they have strong relationships with them – or in the case of newly elected MPs are in the process of developing strong relationships.

I sense that the bus industry and bus policy generally is going to come under increasing scrutiny over the course of 2020, so don’t blame me if you come in for criticism as a result of your MP’s lack of understanding of the issues.

You have been warned.