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Infrastructure Investment

Volume 616: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2016

4. What steps he is taking to increase the level of infrastructure investment outside the south-east. (907116)

The Government are committed to providing significant infrastructure investment across the UK. Through the first two rounds of growth deals, the Government have allocated close to £5 billion to local enterprise partnerships outside London and the south-east to invest in their priorities for growth. With matched funding from the private sector, that is helping to deliver billions of pounds of investment in infrastructure throughout England. City and devolution deals have also committed more than £8 billion to areas outside London and the south-east through long-term investment funds; £1 billion will be in the midlands engine and £3 billion across the northern powerhouse.

Global businesses such as Kellogg’s, Airbus, JCB and Toyota have sited themselves in north-east Wales and have prospered, making the area one of the most successful industrial areas in the UK. We would love to see the hon. Gentleman there. Will he bring with him the investment that these businesses deserve for their confidence in north-east Wales as an area?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question and mourn the collegiality of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport now that I have crossed on to the Front Bench. I share his admiration for the work of those companies; I had the great pleasure of visiting Airbus only a week or so ago. I would be delighted to visit his area in due course. The Government support those strategic industries in many different areas.

In view of the announcement made by the Department for Transport this morning that parts of the west coast main line might not be electrified until 2024, does my hon. Friend not agree that it is essential that each infrastructure project dovetails with another? The third runway at Heathrow might well be built before the west coast main line is fully electrified.

I absolutely take my hon. Friend’s point, but these issues need to be considered in the round and there are provisions in the current structure for local funding to allow areas to share visions and investment potential.

The Government know how important the energy sector is to the north-east and in the past have made commitments about insisting on local content in projects such as offshore wind. What are they doing to assess, monitor and, if necessary, impose penalties when promises of local content are not met?

The Government have a rigorous assessment process for local content. Most recently, the Hinkley Point C station was subject to provisions for more than 60% local content. If the hon. Lady knows of any instances in which the Government are not following up on this, she is welcome to write to the Department.

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) about the west coast main line, may I ask about parts of the Great Western railway that have similarly been deferred this morning, which is not great news for our region? As the Secretary of State develops an industrial strategy for the south-west, will he agree to meet MPs from that region and perhaps support us in changing the mind of the Department for Transport?

I cannot speak for the Secretary of State, but the hon. Gentleman will know that several of the LEPs are my responsibility. I meet them regularly, and will continue to champion their interests.

Will the Minister outline what discussions about infrastructure investment have taken place with devolved regions and with the Chancellor in advance of the autumn statement?

I have had the opportunity to meet both Invest Northern Ireland and the Minister for the Economy in Northern Ireland, and those conversations continue. I cannot speak for colleagues, but they also have a responsibility for the devolved Administrations.

In last night’s Adjournment debate led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) failed to tell the House that he would honour the Government’s pledge to electrify the midland main line north of Kettering. There is cross-party support for this scheme, which has the best ratio of investment to benefits in the whole country. This is the third question we have had this morning about rail electrification. Will the Minister liaise urgently with the Department for Transport to get these schemes back on track?

Of course the Government recognise the concern that has been raised. This is a matter for the Department for Transport, but I have no doubt that it will be attending closely to today’s proceedings.