Private Finance

Ways and Means – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 29th November 1994.

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The right hon. Member for Kingston upon East (Mr. Prescott) reacted to my mention of private finance. Privatisation and private finance for capital investment are rapidly becoming the chosen method for raising the quality of public services in the majority of countries in every continent in the world. They started in this country. Although the political debate here has been transformed since I first became a Minister, an irritating amount of post-socialist resistance still persists. The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East will welcome the news that, fortunately, the Government's private finance initiative remains alive and well and is growing rapidly.
Last year, I announced that a number of transport schemes would go ahead under the private finance initiative. Significant progress has been made— £370 million of private capital has been invested in transport projects in the past two years, with a further £760 million already committed. In addition, £3.5 billion of projects are currently out to competition and the value of contracts placed will steadily build up from a stream to a significant flow. The right hon. Gentleman does not look so cheerful.
The private finance initiative, however, runs wider than transport. There are now more than 50 health projects either approved or completed, bringing more than £100 million of new capital into the national health service. Bids have been received for the first two privately financed prisons and more than £1 billion of information technology projects are now following or considering the private finance route.
In higher education, universities now receive approaching a third of their revenue from the private sector and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced on 31 October new proposals to make it easier for local authorities to form joint ventures with the private sector.
New projects are constantly emerging as the initiative breaks new ground. Today, I can announce that we are on course to let contracts in 1995 under the private finance initiative, leading to around £5 billion of capital investment. We said that we could do it, we introduced it and we are doing it.