§ 11. Mr. Nigel Beard (Bexleyheath and Crayford)
If he will make a statement on the progress in capital investment made by Government Departments toward their public service agreement targets. 
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Andrew Smith)
The projections contained in the pre-Budget report show that we are on course to meet our ambitious targets on public sector net investment over the three years to 2003–04. This substantial increase in investment, matched with reform, will help Departments in achieving their public service agreement targets.
§ Mr. Beard
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the progress that has been made. It stands in marked contrast to the days of successive Conservative Governments who borrowed for day-to-day spending and fecklessly neglected investment in schools, hospitals and railways. What are the possible impediments to maintaining the momentum of the capital investment programme? Such as they are, can they be overcome quickly? What steps are being taken to ensure that investment projects continue to be made on time and achieve their timetable as set out in public sector agreements, and that they are completed to best effect?
§ Mr. Smith
As for the record of the previous Administration, the last time they were in office public sector net investment fell by an average of 15 per cent. a year whereas in this spending period it is increasing by 40 per cent. a year. On bringing capital investment on-stream, my hon. Friend mentions impediments. It is 1006 the case, of course, that projects must be planned, implementation teams put in place, planning permission secured and so on.
Some of the procurement practices, as well as the institutions, that we inherited from the Conservatives were greatly in need of reform. That is why we set up the Office of Government Commerce, which is revolutionising public sector procurement. It is also why our commitment to investment is matched with reform. We have devolved more power to the front line, given local managers a greater ability to manage and formed a close partnership with the private sector where appropriate so that we get the investment that we need. I assure my hon. Friend that that investment will be sustained.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman should not be worrying about the last Conservative Government. The Minister is responsible for his Department and his Government.