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Infrastructure Projects

Volume 596: debated on Thursday 11 June 2015

10. What recent discussions he has had with local authorities and local enterprise partnerships on delivery of transport infrastructure projects. (900256)

I am delighted to say that this Government will spend an unprecedented £56 billion on transport infrastructure over the next five years. It is our view that this money is most usefully spent when organisations such as local authorities and local enterprise partnerships, which know best about the needs of local people and the community, are involved. That is why we consult them on every large national project and indeed why we are devolving local funding to them, putting them firmly in the driving seat for local decision making.

As my hon. Friend is no doubt aware, my Bury St Edmunds constituency sits directly on both the rail link from Norwich through to London, which I know is due for improvements, and on the A14 road corridor that connects Felixstowe, the country’s fifth largest container port, to the rest of the country. Could the Secretary of State and Ministers visit the constituency to discuss a collaborative funding approach with the local enterprise partnership and other bodies to facilitate improvements on the A14 and the campaign for no more delays on that road?

I welcome my hon. Friend to her place. I saw her predecessor enjoying a small glass of wine in Westminster only last night, and he wishes her well. I would be delighted to visit, with other colleagues if appropriate, to see what is going on in her constituency. She will know that the local growth fund is already providing £8 million-worth of investment in Bury St Edmunds, including in the eastern relief road. I look forward to seeing that and to hearing about other projects.

May I remind the Minister that many local enterprise partnerships and local authorities feel bypassed by Government policy at the moment when it comes to infrastructure? The northern powerhouse, which many of us have not yet fully assimilated, is one thing, but my constituents want fast improvement in rail and road infrastructure now.

May I just gently say to the hon. Gentleman that there are some stunning examples, particularly around the Anglia region, where the east of England LEPs have been absolutely in the driving seat of delivering really good analysis and pulling in important amounts of funding? I suggest that the hon. Gentleman gets involved with his LEP and makes sure that it has the right people on board, because LEPs can be very powerful agents of change.

Will my hon. Friend confirm the Government’s willingness to work with the Solent LEP and the Isle of Wight council to set up an island infrastructure taskforce to examine the future of transport on the Isle of Wight and cross-Solent options?

During the last Parliament, my hon. Friend brought in a team to make that point, and they argued the case very assiduously. I am delighted to confirm that our Department is committed to working with him and local partners to deliver the infrastructure upgrade.

It is welcome that the Government are saying that decisions on infrastructure projects should be made locally, but later this year a Conservative Secretary of State will decide on the Leeds New Generation trolleybus scheme, which is being forced on us because the Labour Government said that we could not have a bus-based scheme. Will the Secretary of State now intervene, and allow us to make our own decisions about what is the best transport system?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and I should meet to discuss the matter—I should be delighted to discuss it further—but, as I have said, we believe that local people are best placed to make decisions about local transport.