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Infrastructure Investment

Volume 547: debated on Tuesday 26 June 2012

10. If he will discuss with his ministerial colleagues bringing forward the timing of public infrastructure investment in order to encourage economic growth. (113586)

We are having those discussions as we speak. We are already spending more on new roads and new rail now than we were at the height of the spending boom in the previous Parliament. We have provided £2.4 billion for the regional growth fund, £770 million for the Growing Places fund and £570 million for the Get Britain Building fund. We can also support infrastructure investment through the use of Government guarantees and will be announcing more about how we plan to do so later this summer.

But will the Chief Secretary listen to the business leaders quoted recently in the Financial Times, who said that they had heard Ministers talking about infrastructure projects for months but with no visible results? Will he publish a timetable today, or very soon, for each region showing the projects that will be brought forward with their delivery dates?

The hon. Lady will have seen that last November we published the national infrastructure plan, which does precisely what she said and which was widely welcomed by business leaders and business organisations across the country. She will know that we are spending more on road and rail than the previous Government managed, including on a number of projects in her part of the world.

My constituents warmly welcome the Government’s support for the Northern line extension in the Vauxhall/Nine Elms development area. Is that not a good example of exactly the kind of infrastructure project that the Government could support to help unlock economic growth?

It is precisely such an example of the sort of infrastructure that this country needs and the sort of project from which the economy of London and elsewhere will benefit if we can bring the investment forward and make things happen more quickly. As I said, we are looking for ideas about doing just that.

Is the Chief Secretary not aware that the so-called national infrastructure programme is way behind schedule, that the construction industry is flat on its back and that the apprenticeships in that sector, so badly needed by the industry and by the Government, are seizing up? Why does he not get his finger out and do something about it instead of making vague promises?

The hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that the national infrastructure plan, which we published last November, is behind schedule, but of course he is right to say that there are problems in the construction sector. That is why we have taken a number of steps to support the house building sector, but we will make further announcements in that area later this summer.

Over the past four years, footfall on the Norwich-Cambridge line and the Fen line has increased by 20%. In the Government’s infrastructure plan, will they bring forward the upgrading of the Ely North junction, which will enable half-hourly services on both those lines?

I do not know the details of the Ely North junction project but I shall certainly raise the matter with the Secretary of State for Transport. However, that is precisely the sort of project we have been bringing forward over the past two years to support economic growth across the whole of the United Kingdom, rather than having a model of growth based solely on receipts from the City of London, which was basically the policy of the Labour party.