Department for Transport — Transport and the Economy

Part of Vote on Account 2012-13 – in the House of Commons at 4:51 pm on 28th February 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 4:51 pm, 28th February 2012

I certainly agree with the latter point. It is beyond the scope of my comments this afternoon to go into the differing amounts of regional money. I accept that there clearly is some imbalance in subsidy between varying regions of the country. It is important to analyse what that can deliver and its efficacy. It is interesting to speculate what Crossrail might bring to London in future, as opposed to what the northern hub might bring to the north. I suspect that the benefits of the northern hub might be greater than those of Crossrail. We will wait and see. I am sure the Minister and the DFT will continue to reflect on that.

As a practitioner of the dark art of economics, I know that different economists will always have differing views on everything. Reading the report, I was struck by the comments of the former chief economist at the DFT. Although those may have been made only in response to the question that he was asked, it seemed to me to miss out quite a lot when he said that if one looks at the history of the British economy, it is clear

“how little the underlying rate of economic growth has varied.”

He went on to add that transport had done very little to affect the overall growth rate of the British economy. That seemed to miss out the fact that we have had wildly varying periods across history.

The witness's analysis went back almost 200 years. Over that time, we have had wildly differing levels of infrastructure investment, and there have been periods when the growth rate of the UK economy has been well in excess of the 2% that he mentioned. His analysis also failed to consider the impact of under-investment, which is a well known phenomenon, how that would have dragged down the underlying potential growth rate of the economy even in a period when investment had resumed, and the potential growth rate had there been consistent investment. Although the analysis that Mr Riley presented to the Committee may or may not be valid, it seems to me that it falls foul of the law of averages. I think that the analysis should look at the potential for economic growth with a consistent approach to investment.