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Regional Infrastructure Development

Volume 622: debated on Tuesday 28 February 2017

We recognise the need to enhance public infrastructure across all regions of the UK. That is why at autumn statement 2016 we committed additional capital to fund new productivity-enhancing economic infrastructure through the national productivity investment fund. We are committed to putting local and regional needs at the heart of the fund. For example, we are spending £1.1 billion on local projects to improve our existing transport networks.

As the UK automotive sector continues to embrace new technologies, ensuring the necessary energy supplies are in place is of increasing importance. What support can the Government give to the midlands, so that our region can lead the transformation of the sector, not least with electric vehicles?

My hon. Friend is right that the midlands is home to some of the world’s leading automotive manufacturing. It is also home to cutting edge battery technology research, including by the Warwick Manufacturing Group at Warwick University. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If we are going to electrify the vehicle fleet, we have to ensure that clean, sustainable and reliable supplies of electricity are available to meet the needs of the 21st century economy. Our national infrastructure plan does exactly that.

On leaving the EU, areas like Yorkshire will no longer benefit from EU structural funding. How will the Chancellor meet the shortfall?

As we have made clear, the arrangements we have with the European Union, and with any of the organisations and funds the EU operates, remain to be discussed during the negotiation phase. If the hon. Gentleman is right and we end up not participating in such arrangements in the future, we will clearly have to make separate similar arrangements on a UK-only basis—or, indeed, on an individual nation within the UK basis.

14. Does the Chancellor agree that alongside large-scale investment in infrastructure, such as the Thameslink upgrade, relatively small amounts of money on local roads and station facilities can rapidly improve journey times and therefore boost productivity? (908961)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. It is often the smaller local projects that deliver the greatest benefit. They do not have the same kind of grandstanding possibilities around them and therefore are not always quite as favoured, but they are often the most effective way of intervening. They have another benefit: they can often be delivered very quickly by local levels of government, rather than having to go through many years of planning.

The Chancellor simply did not answer my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis). The UK Government’s funding and investment in London has always far outstripped that for any other region. The OECD says that we have had no regional policy since 2010, so will he answer my hon. Friend? What will happen to investment in the north when Brexit occurs?

We will continue to invest in our economy, and the distribution of that investment will be in accordance with the Government’s priorities. The hon. Lady should look at the industrial strategy paper that we have published and at statements the Government have made, including on the national productivity investment fund we announced in the autumn. We are committed to infrastructure development in all the regions of the UK. It is a key element of our productivity agenda.

23. In order to support infrastructure investment effectively, we will need to upskill our workforce to deliver the projects we need, especially hi-tech projects. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer agree that we need investment in the post-16 arena quite quickly to ensure we fill that skills pipeline? (908971)

I will take that as a Budget representation, and yes I do agree with my hon. Friend. We set out in the autumn statement how we would increase investment in infrastructure. That is one of the challenges we face in raising this country’s productivity. Skills is another.

The Swansea Bay city region deal has the potential to boost infrastructure development in the west of my country. The board’s proposals, which have been presented to the Treasury, have the support of the relevant local authorities and universities and of the Welsh Government. When can we expect the Treasury’s response to them?

This discussion is still ongoing. I hope we may bring it to a conclusion within, let’s say, the next eight days.