Yesterday the Sun on Sunday published an article from me on this topic. I reproduce the blog on it I wrote before the Sun was involved but delayed publishing owing to their interest. This is similar to the article they printed.
I expect the new government to want to increase capital investment throughout the economy. They will be right to order more roads, railway capacity, more power stations, more water supply, more airport capacity and faster broadband. All these are needed for industrial revival, for better lives, and to keep pace with the big expansion of population that has occurred in recent years.
I would expect this to be done with a judicious mixture of public and private sector money, and with an eye to value for money and to future returns on the investments. Transport, Energy and Business, Culture, Environment and other departments of state will be asked to lift the quality, reduce the price and increase the capacity of the utilities they supervise or own. That is the easy bit.
Before they can get far with any of this, there remain three large legacy projects from the Coalition government which they need to determine. All are contentious, all are very expensive, and all still rest to be finally decided. It is a sign of their difficulty and the state of UK government managing large projects that none of them have been signed off despite ten years or more of study and debate.
Each one is at a different stage of development. In the case of the proposed expansion of Heathrow, it falls to the new government to decide finally if extra southern airport capacity is needed, is desirable, and if so where it should be. I cannot offer a conclusion on this, as we still have not read the long and detailed report and evaluation the Coalition government commissioned. As a constituency MP I wish to see a better response from NATs and Heathrow to the growing complaints from residents in my area following changes to routes which were not consulted on.
Hinkley Point is a difficult case.
However, the new government had every right to review, and the contract was not signed when they took over. The power pledged is at a very high price, which makes an industrial revival more difficult as cheap energy is crucial to modern industry. Nor does it help bring down fuel poverty. The technology is unproven, and could be subject to delay and cost escalation. There are security issues.
The government’s decision to proceed is understandable, but a costly long term decision for the Uk. The next power stations ordered must offer much cheaper power if we are to have any cha ce of an industrial revival, as this need cheap energy.
HS2 never made any financial sense. There are many better and quicker schemes to improve rail capacity across the country that could be brought forward. This project is the most advanced of the three, but probably the worst value for money of the lot.
It would be a very brave government that swept away all these. It would need to have ready a good list of other projects that could be smarter and yield better returns, with realistic and quicker deadlines for undertaking them.