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Major Infrastructure Projects: Funding

Volume 651: debated on Tuesday 11 December 2018

All public spending proposals, including those for major infrastructure projects, are appraised against five key considerations: the strategic case for change, the net value to society of the intervention, the affordability of the proposal, the robustness of delivery plans, and whether a realistic commercial deal can be struck to deliver the proposal. As I announced in the Budget, there will be a zero-based review of capital spending at the spending review next year.

The Chancellor will know that Essex is a gateway for infrastructure and trade from around the world, but he will also know that we sorely lack major infrastructure investment across the county, despite having some very compelling business cases. What will he do to ensure that we can get the investment in for the A12, the A120, and the great eastern main line?

First, I acknowledge my right hon. Friend’s tireless work in campaigning to improve infrastructure and boost productivity in the Essex region, including her chairing of the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce. We expect about £47.9 billion to be spent on the railway nationally between 2019 and 2024. I very much look forward to hearing the outcome of the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce study. Regarding the A120, the Government are carefully considering Essex County Council’s proposals for a new dual carriageway to ensure that a robust plan is ready should that project secure funding in RIS 2—the second road investment strategy.

“State of the North 2018”, a report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research North earlier this month, highlighted the fact that public spending in the north of England fell by £6.3 billion since 2009-10 while spending in the south-east and the south-west was up by £3.2 million in the same period. Does this not demonstrate that the northern powerhouse is nothing but a vacuous slogan? What does the Chancellor assess will be the infrastructure funding available once we leave the EU?

We have had this one before. The Institute for Public Policy Research consistently publishes these figures and they are consistently wrong. I would urge the hon. Lady to look at the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s figure. The problem with the IPPR is that it needs also to look at central Government funding to the regions. When we look at central Government funding to the regions, we will see a very different picture.

One of the most important things for long-term infrastructure spending is knowing what the long-term programmes are going to be. These are not projects that can be put together in a year or two years. What reassurance can the Chancellor give us that he is making sufficient capital available so that the big infrastructure companies involved in our roads, railways and power operations have the knowledge that those funds are going to be available?

We are doing two things. First, we are investing more public capital than ever before under the previous Labour Government, but we have also put in place the National Infrastructure Commission to develop a transparent pipeline of projects both publicly and privately funded so that investors in infrastructure projects can have that visibility of future projects available.

While accepting that it is not a simple matter, the criteria used tend to favour infrastructure development in the south, rather than the north. What more can the Government do to support major infrastructure development, particularly when it comes to transport, in the north of England?

I reject the hon. Gentleman’s accusation. The methodologies we use are designed to be fair and equitable in the distribution of infrastructure funding, but if he would like to meet me and my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary, I am happy to go through the whole issue. We are as concerned as he is to make sure that infrastructure investment decisions are made on a transparent and equitable basis.