Public Services (Investment)

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th January 2001.

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Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon 12:00 am, 25th January 2001

If he will make a statement on his plans for capital investment in public services over the next four years. [145801]

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Public sector net investment is set to double over the period 2000–01 to 2003–04 to some £18 billion. Detailed plans on how this additional spending will be delivered are set out in the recently published departmental investment strategies.

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. May I tell him that, for my constituents in Wimbledon, the extra spending has led to the building of two new accident and emergency units at St. Helier and St. George's hospital, and to the refurbishment of the Northern line and of South Wimbledon station, while capital investment in schools in Merton this year is £230 per pupil, in contrast to £15 per pupil in 1996–97? But is it not also the case that it is only as a result of our policies for economic stability that we can make such capital investment in a sustainable way, and is there not a sharp contrast with the Opposition, who have nothing to offer other than further privatisation, cuts to services and the failed economics of boom and bust?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is right. Thirty-eight hospital developments are taking place around the country, 242 accident and emergency departments are being modernised, and 86 walk-in centres for the health service are being developed. The national health service development is £3.8 billion of new investment. In addition, as my hon. Friend rightly says, 17,000 schools have now benefited from the new deal investment, and thousands more schools will get the modernisation that is necessary. The whole country knows that none of that would have happened under the previous Government.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am sure that the Chancellor would not wish to be tarred with the same brush as his right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), as being the cause of the House being misled. Will he reconsider his earlier answer and confirm that the yield of tobacco tax is lower than in the first year of his chancellorship?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I did not mislead the House. The figures for tobacco will be published in the usual way. We devoted the money in the Budget anyway on the basis of our estimates for the year, because we did not want a situation in which the health service did not get the money till the end of the year. The Conservative Opposition went into the Lobby, voted against the increase in cigarette taxation, and would not have given the health service money. They must explain to the country why they keep saying that they will spend as much as we do on the health service, yet they have deprived it of several hundred millions pounds-worth of investment, and would do so every year.

Photo of Claire Curtis-Thomas Claire Curtis-Thomas Labour, Crosby

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the benefits associated with the Office of Government Commerce, with specific reference to the savings that will accrue to the Department?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

There have been a number of major changes in the Treasury, with the creation of the Office of Government Commerce and the extension of the public and private finance initiative. The result is that about £13 billion of private sector investment is taking place in the public services. Instead of substituting private investment for public investment, we are complementing public investment with additional private investment. That is one of the reasons why more money is going into the schools, and why we have been able to start 38 hospital plans, and it is one of the major reasons why we can announce the biggest-ever investment in transport, which is £180 billion of private and public investment over the next 10 years.

None of that could have happened under the Conservative party, which is dedicated to cutting public investment in those areas. The Opposition will soon have to explain in each constituency around the country why they would scrap hospital developments, why they would scrap the school developments, and why they would not go ahead with the road developments. When they return to their constituencies at the weekend, they will know clearly that that is the issue on which the two parties will be locking horns over the next few months.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Conservative, Fylde

The Chancellor may be aware that the publicly owned Covent Garden Market Authority wishes to invest in improving its facilities for the benefits of the people of London. Will he therefore explain why the latest annual report and accounts of that public organisation show it being forced to lend £2.3 million to an unnamed local authority, rather than being permitted to use that money for the purposes of investment in its facilities?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

As I understand it, that matter comes within the remit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I shall look into the matter and write to the right hon. Gentleman.