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Labour slams £100bn spending plans

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander making a statement to the House of Commons Photo: PA

The Government must "pull its finger out and actually start building", Labour said today in the wake of a raft of infrastructure announcements in the Commons.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander outlined about £100 billion of projects, including new affordable homes, big spending on railways and a raft of road renovations and expansions.

Broadband and energy will also see spending, together with smaller commitments in digital equipment for the police and a new prison for North Wales.

Some £10 billion will be spent on school buildings, alongside 261 schools being rebuilt under the Priority Schools Building programme.

And flood defences and a new deal on flood insurance with insurers were also announced by the Chief Secretary in a statement to MPs.

But shadow Treasury minister Chris Leslie said: "Plenty of empty promises but I have to ask you - when is the Government going to pull its finger out and actually start to build some of these things?

"The Chief Secretary to the Treasury was sent out with that long-winded statement to talk and talk and talk about infrastructure investment but all the evidence shows that they are failing to deliver."

He went on: "Shouldn't you be listening to your leader - not the Prime Minister but the Deputy Prime Minister who said this week that the gap between intention, announcement and delivery is quite significant?

"A little more action and a little less Tory from you wouldn't go amiss."

The shadow minister said the Treasury's performance on capital infrastructure since the coalition came to power had been "lamentable".

And Mr Leslie said the coalition had misled the public by suggesting it was investing heavily in new infrastructure projects.

"Why doesn't he come clean and admit that what he's really doing is cutting the capital investment budget overall, in real terms, by 1.7% in 2015/16?

"Isn't the truth that there is no new money for infrastructure here? And you are spinning a line, rolling multiple years together, to make it sound like a big figure, reheating old announcements in his microwave statement that should have turned into action long, long ago."

But Mr Alexander defended the Government's record - highlighting 30 completed transport schemes, 150 refurbished stations and 84,000 new affordable homes since the coalition came to power.

And he told MPs because of departmental spending cuts and increased efficiency, the capital spending would be paid for without "adding a single pound to our borrowing forecast".

Money will also be raised by the sale of assets, including the student loan book, and £5 billion of land and buildings by 2020.

Defending the coalition against Mr Leslie's attack, the Chief Secretary said it was a "pathetic response" by the Labour Party.

"Only the Labour Party could claim that new figures which showed that we borrowed less in previous years is bad news for the country.

"They are addicted to borrowing."

In his statement, Mr Alexander said the announcements by the Government - dubbed Investing in Britain's Future - were the most significant for decades.

He said: "We can guarantee £300 billion of capital spending by the end of the decade.

"Today I can set out our plans for over £100 billion of this for the infrastructure of our country - the biggest public housing programme for over 20 years, the largest programme of rail investment since Victorian times, the greatest investment in our roads since the 1970s, fast online access for the whole country, unlocking massive investments in cleaner energy to power our economy forwards.

"Investing in stronger communities, in better infrastructure, in new sources of energy, that is how we will build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life."

And he echoed the Chancellor's claims the "British economy is moving from rescue to recovery".

Mr Alexander said the Government was actively working to end the problems of delivery which have plagued successive governments and said the advice of Lord Deighton, boss of the London 2012 delivery committee, would be followed.

He said: "This Government is accepting his central recommendation we take crucial infrastructure delivery out of the hands of civil servants and into the hands of commercial experts."

During the backbench questions, Labour MP Chris Bryant (Rhondda) accused the Government of giving a "bung" to BT in the way it was handling the roll-out of broadband, questioning whether it was a "coincidence" the chief executive of BT (Ian Livingston) is now going to become a trade minister.

Mr Alexander replied: "What a pathetic comment. There was a proper competition for contracts in every county in England, as well as in Scotland and Wales."

Tory Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) said: "We cannot duck the Howard Davies report (into aviation) for much longer and we should have that report well before the general election, otherwise we will be building HS2 in completely the wrong place."

Mr Alexander said: "I'll take that up."

Tory MP Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North) said communities which are close to fracking sites should be properly compensated for the disruption.

Mr Alexander said £100,000 would be provided to communities per well site for the exploratory phase when looking for shale gas.

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