HC Deb 24 January 1985 vol 71 cc1122-3
12. Mr. Robert Hughes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement regarding the reports presented to the meeting of the National Economic Development Council on 9 January.

Mr. Lawson

The council had a lengthy and useful discussion on three reports, all of which have been made publicly available.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Chancellor accept the accuracy of the reports that our infrastructure is in need of urgent repair?

Mr. Lawson

I certainly do not accept the accuracy of the figures bandied about in the NEDO report. However, the Government are taking a new look at the whole of the public estate so as to be able to form a better assessment of the state of what is known as the built infrastructure. Of the two elements of the infrastructure most frequently alluded to, road building will increase substantially next year in real terms, and so will investment in the water industry.

Mr. Latham

How did my right hon. Friend react to the excellent housekeeping point made in one of those reports that the longer one leaves basic maintenance work on the infrastructure, the more it will cost?

Mr. Lawson

I share my hon. Friend's belief in good housekeeping. My hon. Friend has mentioned one aspect of good housekeeping; another aspect is balancing the Government's books.

Mr. Bidwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the NEDC whether he has changed his mind about the mining dispute being a good investment?

Mr. Lawson

I never said that the mining dispute was a good investment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I said that the money spent in resisting the strike was a good investment, as indeed it is. The sooner the strike—which is none of our making—is over, the better.

Mr. Walden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that recent events on the exchange markets remind us of the underlying fragility of the recovery in this country and of the fact that injections of public expenditure, however worthy, may impede that recovery still further?

Mr. Lawson

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. One of the factors behind the recent turbulence in the foreign exchange market was the fear in the markets that the Government might be about to relax their grip on inflation by indulging in excessive public expenditure.

Mr. Terry Davis

As the Chancellor has just repeated for a second time his comment that the Government still think that the miners' strike is a worthwhile investment for the Government, can he tell how much has been invested?

Mr. Lawson

It would be helpful if the hon. Gentleman listened to what I said before asking a question.