Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Bill
Neil Carmichael (Stroud, Conservative)
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate. This is a necessary piece of legislation, not least because we need to stimulate growth by showing that we are interested in developing our infrastructure. Such infrastructure investment has taken place in the past, but we need more, and it is important to understand what kind of investment is needed and how the process needs to unfold. We do not always remember that organisations involved in civil engineering, for example, want to see a little more confidence in the world of infrastructure investment, so that they can start to prepare for projects that are in the pipeline or that are urgently needed. We must recognise that some of those projects will stimulate further economic activity. Transport and energy are classic examples of sectors in which more investment is needed, as a stimulant to create even more exponential economic activity.
Let us take transport as an example. By investing in more transport infrastructure and ensuring greater connectivity, we give businesses a better foundation from which to grow. I know that from experience in my own constituency, where the news of the investment in the redoubling of the railway line between Kemble and Swindon on the Stroud to Swindon line has had an enormous impact. There is a real feel-good factor for the medium term in relation to the connectivity of my constituency. We need to see much more of that kind of signalling, and I welcome the thrust of the measures that relate to transport.
Another critical area whose importance we do not always recognise when we talk about investment is the energy sector. Again, the word “connectivity” is important, but we must also understand the need to provide a framework for the right kind of investment, as well as ensuring, as the Bill does, that guarantees can be put in place for those investments. For example, in the renewable energy sector, we need to think about the infrastructure required to get the energy from where it is created to the place where it will be used.
We must also encourage new technologies by providing the right policy platform to enable them to be developed and promoted. A good example is energy storage. In some sectors, we have the kind of technology that could make energy storage a realistic prospect. I have told the House before about liquid air, but I will tell it again. Liquid air provides a significant way of storing energy, but we need the infrastructure to achieve that. The Bill could provide the necessary encouragement for that to happen, and for an interest in energy to be developed.