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Deprived Communities: Infrastructure Investment

Volume 613: debated on Monday 18 July 2016

13. Whether his Department plans to maintain infrastructure investment in deprived communities at the level currently provided by the EU. (905896)

17. Whether his Department plans to maintain infrastructure investment in deprived communities at the level currently provided by the EU. (905900)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I share the House’s surprise.

This Government remain committed to investment in growth and infrastructure across all parts of the United Kingdom. As the former Prime Minister made clear, while the UK remains a member of the EU, current EU funding arrangements continue unchanged. It will be for the Government under the new Prime Minister to begin our negotiations to exit the European Union and set out the arrangements for those in receipt of EU funds.

It is marvellous to welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box. Nottingham has been allocated £10 million for its sustainable urban development strategy to fund projects that are critical to economic growth within the city and to provide vital public funding to support local businesses to grow and prosper. A further £7.8 million has been allocated for Nottingham and Derby’s metro area biodiversity action plan for restoring, opening up and connecting urban open spaces. What assurance will he give me and our city council that these commitments will be maintained?

As I said a moment ago, as long as we are a member of the European Union, the funding regime remains as it is. We are working across Government to get the certainty we want; all of us share that ambition for when we do begin the process of exiting. I would say to the hon. Lady that major investment by this Government is not just limited to the funding that comes through the European Union. We have seen a massive programme of £12 billion of local growth fund investment, with 48 enterprise zones that have created 23,000 jobs and leveraged in £2.4 billion of private sector investment. We are committed as a Government to continuing to invest in infrastructure, such as HS2, of which I know she is a big supporter.

May I, too, welcome the Minister to his job? He was part of a campaign which not only promised £350 million a week for the NHS if we left the European Union, but said that any lost EU funding would be matched by the Government. May I join my colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), in trying to get him to confirm at the Dispatch Box that the £157 million from the EU destined for Stoke-on-Trent and north Staffordshire is underwritten by this Government? Mr Speaker, we have had enough of the Brexit baloney. Tell the potteries they are going to get their money.

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman took such an interest in my campaigning on the referendum in Brigg and Goole. We have made it absolutely clear that while EU funds have delivered some important support for growth and jobs, that has been only a small part of the much larger investment by this Government. It will be for the Government—in time, when we exit the European Union—to set out the funding arrangements and the guarantees. We hope to be able to work to get the certainty we require across Government once that process begins.

May I welcome the Minister and all his colleagues to their places on the Front Bench? Is not one of the most important ways of delivering infrastructure for all communities to ensure that there is speed and certainty of delivery? Will my hon. Friend and his colleagues consider two things we can do swiftly in that respect? One is a major reform of the compulsory purchase legislation, which has been recommended by the Law Commission and is long overdue; the other is to follow up the suggestion of many observers that we would do well to increase the up-front level of compensation for infrastructure projects.

I thank the former Minister for his question. I can confirm, on the point he makes about compulsory purchase, that the changes he wants were in the Queen’s Speech and will be in the Bill. He is of course absolutely right that we want certainty and to deliver on our infrastructure pledges as quickly and as swiftly as possible. I am more than happy to work with him, as a former Minister, to try to achieve just that.

Cornwall has received more EU funding than any other part of the country, but there are very real concerns about the current programme and the speed of access to the funds available. May I welcome the Minister to his new role? Is he prepared to meet me urgently to listen to these concerns and make sure that we can get every penny possible out of the EU before we leave?

I know of the work my hon. Friend has been doing in St Austell and Newquay on this issue. He is a doughty fighter for his constituents. I am happy to meet him this week to discuss just that.

Assurances on EU structural funds—£5.3 billion of funds for local government—is a key issue. With respect to the Minister, whom I welcome to his place, may I, as an MP representing a northern constituency, point out that only one of the top 15 infrastructure projects receiving the most public funding is in the north? What assurances can he give that leaving the EU will not widen the economic divide in our country, and what guarantees can he give that investment from the EU will be maintained up to and after Brexit for the UK?

I thank the shadow Minister for his kind words. If he had seen the new Prime Minister speak outside No. 10 when she took office, he would know that she is clear that delivering economic development across the United Kingdom outside London is a key priority. That is exactly what we have done through our devolution process, the local growth fund initiative, £12 billion of funding, and commitments such as High Speed 2 that go way beyond anything promised by the hon. Gentleman’s Government on transport in the north of England.