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Major Infrastructure Investment

Volume 636: debated on Tuesday 27 February 2018

7. What plans the Government have to invest in major infrastructure during the 2017 Parliament. (904034)

8. What plans the Government have to invest in major infrastructure during the 2017 Parliament. (904035)

As my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury has just told the House, there has been more than £0.25 trillion of public and private investment in infrastructure since 2010. We continued to invest in infrastructure in the autumn Budget 2017 by expanding the national productivity investment fund, so that it will now provide £31 billion of additional investment, including more than doubling the housing infrastructure fund to £5 billion. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said after the Budget that our plans will see public investment increase to levels not sustained in 40 years.

Through the major road network, vehicle excise duty will be made available for investment in strategic roads outside the remit of Highways England. I understand that economic growth must be a priority, but how much will the pressure of future housing developments be considered in any of these future schemes? My constituency in York, for example, is surrounded by the northern ring road and we have a lot of housing coming forward.

My hon. Friend is right that the major road network will support the creation of new housing developments by improving access to future development sites and boosting suitable land capacity, so investment decisions for this funding will include consideration of how proposed schemes will unlock land for housing developments, helping to improve how transport is planned for new developments at the outset. The ring road to which he refers is, of course, part of the proposed major road network.

The Chancellor will know of the great eastern main line taskforce, which has made the economic and business case for rail infrastructure directly to the Treasury. He will also know that Greater Anglia commuters are forking out £3.7 billion to the Treasury under the current rail franchise. Will he ensure that we can get some of that money back out to invest in the much-needed infrastructure improvements for which our commuters are campaigning?

My right hon. Friend is a great champion of infrastructure in Essex, and I share her wish to create a more dependable railway with an increased focus on punctuality and reliability, which is why the Government are pursuing the biggest rail investment programme since Victorian times. Under the Greater Anglia franchise, there is a commitment to deliver more services and faster journey times, including two “Norwich in 90” trains each way a day from May 2019. The great eastern main line proposals are currently at an early stage of development, but we will carefully consider the case she has made for the passing loop.

Will the Chancellor update the House on the steps being taken to ensure the Government’s ambitious plans for housing are supported by local infrastructure investment, such as through the housing infrastructure fund?

My hon. Friend is right to observe that we cannot build the homes this country needs without infrastructure. Often, the push-back from local communities against the idea of accommodating greater numbers of homes is caused by the fear that infrastructure will not keep pace. The autumn Budget 2017 more than doubled the housing infrastructure fund, taking it to a total of £5 billion. On 1 February 2018, we announced the first £866 million of investment from that fund to support 133 projects, which will unlock infrastructure for up to 200,000 new homes.

It is now two years and two months since the Boxing day floods hit much of Yorkshire, including my constituency. Kirkstall in Leeds is no better protected from floods than it was on Boxing day 2015, and the Government still have not signed off money for the phase 2 Leeds flood alleviation scheme. When will that happen? The scheme is urgently needed to protect my constituents and local businesses from devastating floods such as those that we have already experienced.

My constituency has also been affected by flooding, and some of the responses are major engineering projects that take time to develop. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency have funding for flood relief projects, but those developments have to be prioritised and worked up into proper business cases. I will look at the specific case the hon. Lady raises and, if I may, I will write to her and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Some of the most important national infrastructure projects include the network of tidal lagoons for low-carbon energy. As the Treasury has, apparently, approved the project as good value for money, why is it allowing dinosaurs in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to block it?

I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project which, as he knows, is under consideration by the Government. An announcement will be made in due course.

Contrary to the Treasury’s own assessment, a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research North recently found that transport investment in London is two and a half times higher per capita than in the north. We know that in Norwich Britvic is shedding hundreds of jobs, citing poor transport as a key cause. That inequality hurts business and local authority revenue, so what actions will Ministers take to redress this unjust imbalance? Will they commit to working with the Mayors of Manchester and Liverpool on the convention for the north that was announced this morning?

I just do not recognise or agree with the hon. Gentleman’s figures. The Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s analysis shows that infrastructure investment per capita in the north is actually higher than in the south-east.

21. The Chancellor has spoken out in favour of rebalancing the economy via a fairer distribution of transport spending. Will he therefore consider Transport for the North’s strategic transport plan, which calls for a 50% increase in transport spending across the north of England? (904048)

The Government are committed to the northern powerhouse project and recognise that that has to be supported through infrastructure investment. We are looking at northern powerhouse infrastructure investment projects on a case-by-case basis, and we will continue to support the development of the northern powerhouse.