While welcoming Chancellor George Osborne's commitment to the Mersey Gateway Project as announced on the October 17th edition of the Andrew Marr Show, Derek has said it has to be backed up by money.
Sources in Westminster early last week were saying there would be no announcement of any funding for the Mersey Gateway Bridge. Indeed, in a letter to Derek on last Wednesday, Transport Minister Norman Baker made no mention of what the funding package would be and stated that approval for the scheme was subject to cost reductions by the promoter and/or increasing local contributions.
This seemed to be further confirmed when George Osborne said nothing about specific funding in his Comprehensive Spending Review Statement on Wednesday afternoon.
After the CSR statement, Derek asked the Chancellor on the floor of the House what government funding would be given to the Project. He promised to get that information to Derek later that day but nothing was received from the Treasury, despite contact with the Chancellor's private office. Derek therefore raised a Point of Order on the floor of the Commons chamber on Thursday - later in the afternoon, a letter was received from the Chancellor's office setting out the funding situation.
"I welcome George Osborne's letter. I am pleased that pressure from me has got a response from the Chancellor about the funding of the Mersey Gateway Bridge and it is good news that some funding has now been announced by the Project, as further confirmed today by the Transport Secretary. The developments over the past week have been the most important in the history of the Mersey Gateway since the Labour Government agreed to give it Project Entry Status in 2006, which allowed a planning application to be submitted.
There remains uncertainty about the remaining funding package but I am confident that Halton Council will do all it can to get a good deal from Government and I will work closely with the Council to maintain the high profile status of this 'flagship' project. I will work tirelessly in Westminster to keep the pressures on the Coalition Government.
The Mersey Gateway is essential to removing the traffic congestion around the current bridge and for the future of economic regeneration of Halton, Merseyside and Cheshire."