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Infrastructure Development

Volume 613: debated on Tuesday 19 July 2016

There are 40 schemes in the west midlands in the infrastructure pipeline, with a total value of £7.6 billion. More than 300 infrastructure schemes have been delivered in the west midlands since 2010. There are 88 projects in the north-west in the infrastructure pipeline, with a total value of £34.5 billion. More than 240 infrastructure schemes have been delivered in the north-west since 2010.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new role. The Rugeley B power station site is truly a hub of connectivity, where the national grid, broadband and rail infrastructure all come together, and it is an ideal location for redevelopment. Will my right hon. Friend outline the assistance that the Government can provide to ensure the speedy redevelopment of the site, and will he meet me to discuss the possibility of creating a Rugeley enterprise zone on this strategically important site in the west midlands?

I thank my hon. Friend for her kinds words, and for her question. It is not the first representation that I have received in the few days in which I have been doing this job, and I suspect that it might not be the last I receive today. I would be delighted to meet her to discuss the enterprise zone and the site that she talks about. It is important that we have world-class infrastructure. If we can bring that together in various forms on particular sites, it will enable us to make further and faster progress. I look forward to discussing that with her in future.

May I too congratulate my right hon. Friend on his promotion? The recently announced infrastructure bonds will help to improve productivity and promote economic growth across the north-west. Will he outline the projects that could be eligible for this funding?

I am not sure that this morning is the point at which I can provide specific examples, but I can say that this Government are very ambitious about infrastructure. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has pointed out, infrastructure is one of the ways in which we can drive up productivity. That is one of the great challenges that we face, but we as a Government are determined to address it.

The Minister has reeled off a list of moneys going to infrastructure projects in the west midlands. Will he publish a list of all those moneys that he is delivering? Who is going to be accountable for this public money—the local enterprise partnerships, the combined authorities, the local authorities, or HS2 Ltd?

It was not just the money—I also rattled off the numbers. I would be delighted to provide the hon. Lady with details of the projects that have been delivered, with, as I say, 300 infrastructure schemes delivered in the west midlands and 240 infrastructure schemes delivered in the north-west. Accountability depends on the specific nature of the schemes. Clearly, over the past six years we have delivered on infrastructure, but there is more to do and we are determined to do it.

One of the absurdities of the previous Chancellor’s tenure was the fiscal rule that forbade borrowing money for infrastructure investment even when the return on that investment would have grossly exceeded the cost of the borrowing. Instead, the former Chancellor ended up borrowing billions to compensate for low growth and the cost of failure. That orthodoxy was strongly challenged in the Conservative leadership election, so will we now see a more rational approach from this Chancellor’s team?

As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has made clear, and as, indeed, the previous Chancellor made clear, in circumstances where there is a projection of growth less than 1% over a 12-month period, that fiscal rule does not apply. The fact is that we inherited a very high deficit, and we have shown very strong determination over the past six years to bring that deficit down. As we face the challenges that we now face in terms of Brexit, had we not taken the tough decisions on public spending over the past six years, we would be in a much more vulnerable position than we are now.

The previous Chancellor announced a new light rail link between the midland metro and the new enterprise zone in Brierley Hill in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss how we can extend that to the main line rail link at Stourbridge so that we can support businesses, communities and jobs in my constituency?

I note that my prediction that I would receive further representations and diary request appears to be holding true. I am happy also to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the project that he mentioned.

I, too, welcome the Chancellor to his position, and I welcome his whole team. It is a deserved promotion for the Chief Secretary, whom I believe I promoted only a month ago in a speech to the House.

EU funding for the regions comes to £10 billion a year. At the recent Local Government Association conference, councillors from all parties expressed their concern over the potential loss of these structural funds. Will the Chief Secretary clarify whether he plans to make funding provision equivalent to that received through the EU structural funds in the event of the UK leaving the EU?

First, I thank the shadow Chancellor for his kind words. Yes, his description of me as Chief Secretary last month proved to be ahead of its time. That is not a phrase I often use about the shadow Chancellor, but he was right on this occasion.

On the structural funds, of course we need to make an assessment of value for money and so on. We will make announcements in due course. I recognise the case for wanting to address uncertainty, but it is right that we follow due process before we make any announcements.

I am grateful for that, but may I ask the Chief Secretary that, in the interests of local government stability, that statement is made sooner rather than later?

The vote to leave also affects the UK’s access to European Investment Bank funds, which last year came to £6.5 billion across the country. With business investment falling even before the vote to leave, and with Government investment scheduled to fall until the end of this Parliament, what action is the Chancellor taking to ensure that Britain retains its stake in the European Investment Bank?

First, on the general point, I recognise what the hon. Gentleman is driving at in terms of uncertainty and the desirability to resolve the issue sooner rather than later.

It is the case that the UK did very well from the European Investment Bank in recent months in terms of attracting investment. There is no evidence as yet that the UK will be discriminated against during the period that we remain members of the EU, but the hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue. We will continue to monitor the situation and we want to ensure that we continue to do well from the EIB.