The Labour Party has attacked the Coalition’s record on infrastructure as “a complete and utter shambles” during a debate in the Commons.
Rachel Reeves, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury and Labour MP for Leeds West told Parliament: “Only 14% of the 576 projects listed in the Government’s infrastructure pipeline have started and just 1% of those are said to be operational.
“The government’s record on infrastructure is a complete and utter shambles,” she said. “Wherever we look, the strategy is failing to deliver - a perfect storm of uncertainty, incompetence and delay.”
Reeves highlighted the A14 and the Mersey Gateway bridge as examples of stalled transport projects.
The National Infrastructure Plan exemplifies the vacuum of leadership from this government, with more projects being kicked into the long grass,” she said. “Let us take the A14, which was described by the former transport secretary as “a crucial strategic route” and “a lifeline to international markets.”
Now the Treasury says that construction might just begin in 2018.
“The Mersey Gateway, which has been highlighted as one of the world’s most important infrastructure projects, has still not had a preferred bidder announced,” she added.
Reeves also attacked government energy policy, quoting from the Institution of Engineering and Technology which has warned that “short-term uncertainty around UK energy policy is very unhelpful and has the potential to delay much-needed investment in all forms of energy infrastructure.”
And she noted a poll by KPMG that indicates that “two thirds of businesses believe that the UK’s energy and water infrastructure is unlikely to get any better because of uncertainty about the policy framework”.
However, Reeves’ claim that the current government has so far spent £12.8bn less in capital investment compared with the plans it inherited from the last Labour government was disputed financial secretary to the Treasury Greg Clark.
He told the Commons that the Labour government’s final Budget in March 2010 planned to cut capital investment between 2010 and 2104 by 6% more than his government’s latest plans, citing the £5.5bn of extra infrastructure investment promised in the last Autumn Statement.
“There is little that can be said by Labour Members that should not start with an apology,” he said. “Infrastructure, more than most issues, is an area of policy in which the present is haunted by the decisions of the past. By their very nature, major infrastructure projects must be planned years in advance, capital spending budgets must be allocated years in advance and private sector investment must be secured years in advance. All those things require a government who can look ahead, anticipate the needs of the future, and make the necessary decisions in a timely fashion,” he said.