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Regional Infrastructure Development

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th April 2017.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 12:00 am, 18th April 2017

What steps he is taking to support regional infrastructure development.

Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Conservative, Bolton West

What steps he is taking to support regional infrastructure development.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

We recognise the importance of infrastructure provision in all regions of the United Kingdom. That is why at autumn statement 2016 we committed additional capital to fund high-value economic infrastructure through the national productivity investment fund. We are committed to putting local and regional needs at the heart of this fund. For example, we are spending £1.1 billion on local projects to improve our existing transport networks. That will deliver improvements to hundreds of roads across the country.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

What further help can my right hon. Friend give to infrastructure projects in Southend West, including the A127 corridor improvement works?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

My hon. Friend is a tireless advocate of the case for Southend. Indeed, we met in November to discuss some of these issues. It is worth pointing out that the Government have supported improvements to the A127, with more than £35 million of local growth funding. Furthermore, local authorities will have the opportunity to bid into the £490 million local transport pot as part of the national productivity investment fund.

Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Conservative, Bolton West

I welcome the investment in the electrification of the rail line between Manchester and Preston, but what more can the Chancellor do to ensure that we have vital road links, such as the Westhoughton bypass?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The Government are investing more than £13 billion in transport projects in the north and supporting local road schemes such as the Manchester airport relief road and the Heysham M6 link road. The Government are also looking at options for the Highways England north-west quadrant that should ease congestion in places such as Westhoughton.

Photo of Stephen Hepburn Stephen Hepburn Labour, Jarrow

This Government cannot even begin to pretend that they are interested in boosting infrastructure outside London and the south-east. We need only look at transport spending to prove that. In London, transport spending is £1,000 per head; in the north-east it is not even £300. Does that not tell us about the Government’s record and their priorities?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

As I said a moment or so ago, we are investing more than £13 billion in transport projects in the north. HS2 will benefit the north of England. We make no apologies for also wanting to ensure that we invest in Crossrail to deliver for London, yes, but also for the economy of the whole United Kingdom.

Photo of Greg Mulholland Greg Mulholland Liberal Democrat, Leeds North West

Before the last general election, Conservative Ministers were committed to the electrification of the Leeds-Harrogate-York line, on which commuters still suffer from travelling on Pacer trains. Will we do any better after the next general election and finally see the electrification of this line?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

As I said, we are investing in our infrastructure. We already had significant plans before the autumn statement, which involved further investment to give us scope to improve our transport infrastructure. It is worth pointing out, however, that aggregate investment in economic infrastructure will rise by almost 60% between 2016-17 and 2020-21.

Photo of Jason McCartney Jason McCartney Conservative, Colne Valley

As a Huddersfield Town fan, may I also congratulate Brighton & Hove Albion on being promoted to the premiership? We look forward to meeting Brighton in the premiership next season once we triumph in the play-off final at Wembley.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

My hon. Friend makes an important point about interconnection between northern towns. It is worth pointing out that we are putting local and regional needs at the heart of the national productivity investment fund. That is why we are spending £1.1 billion on local projects to improve our existing transport networks.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Business, Innovation and Skills)

In the same vein, I congratulate the Economic Secretary to the Treasury’s local team on their success, and I hope that I will be joined in congratulating Livingston FC, who have also gained promotion.

On infrastructure spending, there is no doubt that Crossrail is an engineering feat, but it is costing nearly more than a third of Scotland’s national budget. When will we see more devolution of infrastructure funding—perhaps to fix some of the problems of the Minister’s colleagues?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

It is the case that Scotland benefits from the Barnett consequentials of investment in things such as HS2, which will provide a step change in rail connectivity along the east coast corridor, bringing significant benefits to the UK economy as a whole. However, we can afford to spend money on infrastructure only if we have a stable and strong economy to deliver it.