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Government Capital Expenditure

Part of Opposition Day — [3rd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 2nd February 2009.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury) 4:20 pm, 2nd February 2009

I thought that I had just answered that. If we can sustain that level of public investment, it will be an important achievement in itself. The danger is that that investment will simply stop. If we look at what the Government have done in their public investment programme, we can see that they have brought investment forward; I think that the figures are £365 million for the current financial year—that probably will not happen—and £2.5 billion for the next financial year. After that they want a big cut of £3 billion in public investment in the following year. That assumes a short, minor recession, which seems utterly foolish in the current context.

I want to ensure that a steady programme of public investment of the kind that the Government had built up, albeit artificially, in many cases through private finance initiatives, is sustained. I have given the hon. Gentleman an indication of the magnitudes that we are talking about. Many of those projects will be justified in any event by the economic returns—they will produce a return to the taxpayer. Those projects will, of course, be costly and involve public borrowing in the short run, but in many cases they will pay for themselves and reduce debt in the long term. That seems to be basic common sense. I am not sure why he is wrinkling his brow in such a confused way, because I think that I am making the point very simply.