HC Deb 18 December 2003 vol 415 cc1715-6
13. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby) (Lab)

What assessment he has made of the effects on investment in infrastructure in Yorkshire of reducing public spending to 35 per cent. of GDP. [144728]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown)

As I announced in the pre-Budget report. total managed expenditure in the UK for 2003–04 will be 41.4 per cent. of national income. Cutting total managed expenditure by 6.4 per cent. of GDP in the UK, were it to be reflected locally, would mean, in Yorkshire, a cut in spending of £100 million for each constituency, and that would mean fewer doctors, nurses, teachers and classroom assistants.

Lawrie Quinn

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that one of the main challenges in Yorkshire is the lack of investment in our transport infrastructure? If those policies were followed, what assessment would he make of our chances of clawing back the 30 years and more of under-investment in transport infrastructure in my region?

Mr. Brown

The local transport capital expenditure for Yorkshire and Humberside was £180 million, and it is £106 million in 2003–04. That compares with just £70 million in 1999. That doubling of expenditure could not take place under a 35 per cent. of GDP quota. Nurses, doctors and teachers, as well as the road and rail programmes, would be affected by such a massive cut.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con)

How can the Chancellor square the record increase in investment in Network Rail with the fact that performance will not reach the levels enjoyed on the railways in 1997 for a considerable time to come? He is putting more money in, but performance and reliability on the railways is decreasing under this Government.

Mr. Brown

The hon. Lady forgets that more people are using the railways than at any time for 50 years, as a result of the extra investment that has been put in by this Government. She appears not to have heard that her Front Benchers have regretted railway privatisation and apologised for it. Just as they were wrong on the new deal, the Bank of England and the minimum wage, they were wrong in the way they privatised the railways.

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab)

What would the impact be on investment projects —such as the three new schools being built in York, the £16 million upgrade of York district hospital, the £26 million that York city council has to buy new buses and extend its bus services, and the university's planned expansion, with the creation of a new medical school and a new campus—if the Government were to go back to a 35 per cent. level of public expenditure?

Mr. Brown

If we were faced with the spending level proposed by the Conservatives, with public expenditure pegged at 35 per cent., we would have to sack most of the 50,000 nurses, the 20,000 doctors, the 20,000 teachers and the 90,000 classroom assistants who have been employed—[Interruption]—and they laugh at the prospect of sacking such important public service workers.