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Learn from the past and invest in a new infrastructure and technology, says Osborne

Chancellor George Osborne backs investment in shale gas, nuclear and renewable power, high speed rail, airport capacity and new homes in speech to Conservative annual conference.

The UK must learn from the past and invest now in a new era of infrastructure and technology, Chancellor George Osborne told the Conservative Party conference this week.

In a speech which also called for continued restraint in public spending, Osborne said the country could not afford to delay investment in infrastructure 

“We will tap the shale gas, commission nuclear power and renewables, and guarantee our energy for the future,” he said. “We will build the high speed rail, decide where to put a runway and support the next generation with starter homes in a permanent Help to Buy.”

“Big decisions on infrastructure have always been controversial and always will be. There are always one hundred reasons to stick with the past, but we need to choose the future. We must learn from the past, not be the past.”

Drawing reference to Birmingham’s industrial engineering past and steam engine pioneers Matthew Boulton, William Murdoch, and James Watt, Osborne reflected on a time when the “spirit of invention was alive and the marriage of business and science made everything possible”.

These pioneers would not, he said, have been content to live with a transport system that couldn’t cope. Nor would they, he said, have been content to cease construction of nuclear power stations of resist the lure of shale gas reserves

“Big decisions on infrastructure have always been controversial and always will be,” he said pointing out that throughout history new roads and railways were always opposed. 

“There are always one hundred reasons to stick with the past, but we need to choose the future,” he added. “We must learn from the past, not be the past.”

Osborne said that his latest Treasury figures estimated that to eliminate the UK’s budget deficit meant finding a “further £25bn of permanent public expenditure savings or new taxes”.

However, he added that savings in public spending would be used to fund three million new apprenticeships to help young people to build careers.

Osborne also reiterated his call for more investment to drive and link up the cities of the Midlands and north of England t create new economic “powerhouses” outside London to rebalance the north south divide. 

“I can see the risk of our capital city’s dominance,” he said. “It is not healthy for our country or our economy. The answer is not to pull down and hold back our greatest global asset. The answer is to build up the rest of our country. To create a Northern Powerhouse of the cities across the Pennines.”

If you would like to contact Antony Oliver about this, or any other story, please email antony.oliver@infrastructure-intelligence.com.