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Regional Infrastructure

Volume 617: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2016

In the autumn statement, we prioritised additional high-value investments, specifically in infrastructure and innovation, that will directly contribute to raising Britain’s productivity. The Chancellor announced a new national productivity investment fund of £23 billion to be spent on housing, transport, digital communications and research and development over the next five years. Local enterprise partnerships will receive £1.8 billion of growth deal funding. This will go towards the projects needed to bring about economic growth in local areas, including new homes, transport improvements and supporting businesses and people to access the skills they need.

I welcome all those measures to boost productivity and particularly to turn attention to infrastructure and the specifics for the east of England given yesterday. However, given the strategic importance of the A14 trunk road linking Felixstowe port with Cambridge and the rest of the country, as well as its significance to 80% of businesses in Suffolk, does the Minister agree that further improvements to a road that he knows well are vital to productivity?

My hon. Friend is right—it is a road that I know well. We certainly agree that the A14 is a critically important part of the network. We are investing £1.5 billion for a major upgrade to cut congestion on the A14, including a new 21-mile road between Huntingdon and Cambridge, and only yesterday my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary was able to go there to witness the start of the work.

24. Is not the simple truth that more than half the money announced for England will go to projects in London and the south-east and that, despite a £50 million shortfall in NHS funding by 2017 and a £130 million shortfall in social care funding by 2020, the Chancellor, like his predecessor, has short-changed Birmingham and the west midlands? (907563)

No, that is not true. There is a balanced package and all parts of England will benefit from the transport measures. The Barnett consequentials should mean that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can also benefit in this area. A specific announcement about the midlands hub was made in the autumn statement and there is more to be said about the midlands engine. This is a Government who are determined to ensure that the whole country benefits from economic growth.

17. Can the Minister assure me that digital infrastructure is as important as road infrastructure and that part of the £1 billion broadband fund will be allocated to address the productivity gap in rural areas—in particular, to help shops such as the hollies farm shop in my constituency, which has three business lines and 2 megabits of speed? (907556)

My hon. Friend highlights the fact that digital must be key to improving productivity. That is why a £1 billion package was announced in the autumn statement. There was also specific help for rural areas through rural rates relief. Our ambition is clear: to provide the best digital infrastructure we can for urban and rural areas.

In table 4.21 of the report Office for Budget Responsibility’s it forecast that the Government will underspend on infrastructure by £15 billion in the next five years—two thirds of the additional money announced by the Chancellor last week. Why should the public have any confidence in the ability of the Government to deliver on their promises when their own watchdog clearly does not?

The OBR has always taken a cautious view on delivery of infrastructure, but let us remember that we have already delivered 3,000 projects. We have set out an ambitious plan for delivery of infrastructure improvements in the course of this Parliament, and that is exactly what we will deliver.