The campaigning and lobbying efforts of Sir Alan Beith MP and Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate Julie Pörksen have left me in no doubt that the A1 north of Newcastle needs dramatic improvement.
Alan has never lost an opportunity in all his 40 years in parliament to press for action, and Julie Pörksen has taken over the campaign to great effect.
In December’s Autumn Statement next week I will be leading on a wide range of announcements about our national infrastructure. I can assure you that the A1 will be one of the highest priorities. It will be a very substantial project so will take time to do. And you can be assured that great care will be taken to ensure that the upgrading is effective and safe. It’s a vital economic artery for the north east and for the whole country, and like so much of our national infrastructure has been neglected by successive single party governments for far too long.
I know first-hand just why infrastructure matters. I grew up on the remote island community of Colonsay with a generator that only operated four hours a day. I saw the transformation to our community when the mains arrived. Experiences in that community shaped my view that excellent roads, power networks and railways are vital if we are to create the conditions for a stronger economy and increase the chances for everyone to get on in life.
We Liberal Democrats formed the coalition in 2010 to rescue the British economy. Because we have faced up to the difficult decisions needed to balance the nation’s books, growth has returned and we are creating record numbers of jobs. But when we entered government, we found more than just a financial deficit. We found a competitiveness deficit too. And a major part of that was a road network that had been under invested in since the 1970s. We needed bold action. That’s why I launched the first ever comprehensive National Infrastructure Plan which now sets out our vision for decades to come. As a result of that plan we are now spending more on the railways than at any time since the Victorian era and have ramped up spending on roads to the highest level since the 1970s.
Infrastructure matters. None more so than your A1 in the north east. I’ve seen the A1 between Morpeth and Berwick for myself. I was also glad to help secure £5million vital funding from the coalition government to repair the landslip on the Rothbury road which I visited with Alan.
I commend all of you that have backed Alan and Julie’s campaign. Now, I hope you will join me in my campaign to have the soon to be enhanced A1 north of Newcastle named ‘The Alan Beith Expressway’ in acknowledgement of Alan’s superb role in making these improvements a reality.
○Danny Alexander is chief secretary to the treasury