[Mrs Anne Main in the Chair] — Backbench business — Private Finance Initiative
Neil Carmichael (Stroud, Conservative)
It is a great pleasure to be operating under your chairmanship, Mrs Main. It is a great thing that my hon. Friend the Member for
Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) has done in securing this very important debate, because he has raised a number of issues that have been challenged or discussed and, often, supported in useful ways.
The idea of securing a rebate is a good one. I know that the Treasury, in the form of Lord Sassoon, the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, is busily doing just that—he is attempting to negotiate a rebate. I am not sure how well the negotiation is going, but it is clearly under way. So the concept of making savings, with of course the proviso that standards and services are not threatened, is well established. My hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire is absolutely right to push this issue further up the agenda. I salute that.
There is a question about off-balance sheet expenditure. It is right that that issue should be carefully considered. In the context of the green investment bank, we have already done that. The funding for that is now measured to about £3 billion. When our deficit is going down, that bank will be able to raise more capital. There is the same sort of issue, although obviously better controlled by the present Government than the previous one, in connection with the PFI.
I want you to cast your mind back to the time before PFIs got started in this country. Can you remember those schools that were designed poorly, built badly and maintained with no attention to longevity? I have buildings in my constituency that could have been much better designed and of much better quality. Indeed, a building that was literally knocked up in 1956—frankly, it was a disgrace—was recently knocked down. It was put up by a local authority as a technical college, and I could see when I first arrived in Stroud that it should have been knocked down years before. We must remember that PFI schemes have improved the quality of buildings, and in many cases that has improved the quality of services.