HC Deb 05 November 1986 vol 103 cc943-5
6. Mr. Livsey

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received concerning investment in national infrastructure.

Mr. Channon

None, Sir.

Mr. Livsey

Will the Minister heed the advice given recently by the CBI to invest in infrastructure and realise that every job created in the infrastructure costs £8,000, whereas every job created through tax cuts costs £25,000? Is it not a disgrace that the Government have failed to invest in the infrastructure?

Mr. Channon

I do not agree with that. The Government's record on infrastructure spending is extremely good. Total public sector capital expenditure is more than £21 billion a year, capital spending on motorways and roads has increased considerably and National Health Service capital expenditure has also increased. I could give the House millions of examples.

Mr. Richard Page

Is it not true that the regions that are at present making their submissions are doing so to obtain money in their bids from the EEC and are unlikely to put the best complexion on these matters? In answer to the whingeing of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey), is it not the case that the shire counties, such as Hertfordshire, have invested hundreds of millions, if not thousands of millions, of pounds in the regions through the redistribution of the rate support grant? Therefore, does my hon. Friend agree that due recognition should be given to the shire counties for the sacrifices that they have made over the years?

Mr. Channon

As I represent part of a shire county, I understand what my hon. Friend is saying. I agree with a great deal of the first part of his remarks.

Mr. Pike

Does the Secretary of State accept that many parts of the deprived regions will be shocked by the complacency of the reply given a few moments ago? We need to spend far more money on the infrastructure to deal with the problems facing us, especially in the north-west and in other deprived regions. When will the Government tackle those problems and get people back to work?

Mr. Channon

I am astonished at what the hon. Gentleman says. In the north-west nearly £1 billion has been spent on regional aid since 1979, the Merseyside development corporation has been created, an urban development corporation for Trafford Park and Salford has been created, there is a commitment to develop Manchester airport, £58 million has been invested in improvements, there are £105 million worth of urban development grants and there has been a 65 per cent. increase in the north-west water services.

Mr. Marland

Does my right hon. Friend agree with the view of all those of us who are regular users of the motorways that the miles and miles of cones that we must work our way around are a vivid example of how much is being spent, not only on motorway repairs, but on improvements in the infrastructure?

Mr. Channon

Motorway cones are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I agree with my hon. Friend that capital spending on motorways and trunk roads has increased by almost 30 per cent. in real terms. Why are Opposition Members so solemn and sour about it all?

Mr. Gordon Brown

With regard to the submission to the European regional development fund on infrastructure and other aspects of Government policy, will the Secretary of State tell us exactly who is responsible for saying that the prospects for reducing unemployment are gloomy, frighteningly bleak, or impossible until fundamental problems of public investment and expenditure are resolved?

Mr. Channon

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government make no forecast of future unemployment. We do not think that that would he sensible. Opposition Members are determined, not surprisingly, to make trouble for the years ahead. Under the rules of the ERDF, the Government have to provide assumptions that are used for financial planning purposes only, and they are assumptions, not forecasts. It is the same as the public expenditure survey forecast. The hon. Gentleman is trying to create a great deal of fuss about nothing.

Mr. Hanley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the views of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey) are typical of the views of the Liberal party nationally? I cannot find any local Liberal organisation that will allow expansion of roads, railways, prisons, tunnels or airports in its own area.

Mr. Channon

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.