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Construction Industry

Volume 583: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2014

9. What steps he is taking to promote private sector investment in the construction industry. (904401)

The Government published the Construction 2025 industrial strategy in July last year, setting out a clear vision of how the Government will work with the industry to maximise the opportunities for growth. The Construction Leadership Council, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary and Sir David Higgins, is overseeing delivery of that strategy. In addition, efforts to drive improved delivery are being co-ordinated through Infrastructure UK’s cost review programme.

But Wrexham construction companies continue to tell me that banks fail to offer loans to support house building projects. Non-financial private sector investment has fallen from £43 billion in 2008 to £14 billion in 2013. Is this not just another aspect of the failure of the Chancellor’s short-term economic scam?

As a Government we are trying to do everything we can to help the construction industry, whether that is through the beneficial effect of Help to Buy, the local infrastructure fund, or the changes to planning. It is worth pointing out that construction output, according to the Office for National Statistics, is 4.6% up from where it was 12 months ago. The purchasing managers index also shows significant increases in construction. We are moving in the right direction.

The construction industry has benefited from the business-friendly policies of this Government. Does my hon. Friend agree with my constituent, the former Trade Minister, Lord Digby Jones, when he says that the Leader of the Opposition is the “least business-friendly” leader of any political party in years?

On the subject of private sector investment in the construction industry, rather than the characteristics of an individual, a brief reply, Minister Gauke. We are grateful.

If we want to see private sector investment in the infrastructure industry, or anywhere else, we must maintain business confidence. Anti-business policies do not help that.

But 2025 is a long way away for a plan. Is the Minister not aware that on this Government’s watch infrastructure output in the whole economy, public and private, is 13% down? Is it not about time they got their finger out and did something about it?

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is criticising the long-term approach of our economic plan, but it is important that we think about the long term. Infrastructure spending, both private and public, will on average be higher in this Parliament than it was in the previous Parliament.

Is the Exchequer Secretary aware that a partnership between the Government, Central Bedfordshire council and developers is leading to the construction of 5,200 houses north of Houghton Regis and the provision of a bypass, for which we have waited 60 years, as a result of a £45 million contribution from the developers? Is not that the way to get construction going?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is as a result of this Government’s long-term approach to the economy that we will see significant increases in infrastructure over the years ahead.