Despite an unstable year for UK government, the ICE public affairs team has worked closely with policymakers to great success.
After two years of Covid-19, the UK approached 2022 with a degree of understandable trepidation. Would the coming 12 months bring more of the same?
The year proved to be reliably unreliable. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February put a stranglehold on global supply chains, increasing inflationary pressures and accelerating discussions worldwide about energy security.
Then came summer; and with it not one, but two new UK prime ministers in the space of two months.
In January, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI) chair Andrew Jones MP predicted that 2022 would be a year for ‘delivery’. And despite challenges, the ICE public affairs team has continued to work with the APPGI to great effect this year.
Here are the highlights...
‘Delivering an infrastructure revolution’
The APPGI kicked off its 2022 programme at the ICE’s HQ at One Great George Street, Westminster – the group’s first in-person event since the pandemic began.
Then-chancellor Rishi Sunak addressed policymakers and industry leaders at the event, outlining the government’s plans to invest over £600 billion in infrastructure in the UK.
Joining Sunak as a keynote speaker was Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and ICE Past President.
The chancellor’s address was a positive indication that despite global pressures, infrastructure remained central to the government’s growth agenda.
Getting rail investment back on track for the North and Midlands
The Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) – a vision to transform rail infrastructure in the North and Midlands – was a big focus for the ICE and APPGI this year.
Published in November 2021, the £96.4 billion strategy consolidated many major rail projects, including HS2, the Transpennine Route Upgrade, and the Midlands Rail Hub, into a single pipeline.
But six months and several signalling errors later, the IRP faced an uncertain future.
The ICE and APPGI identified an opportunity to reduce uncertainty and accelerate delivery of much-needed rail investment in the region.
In May, then-transport minister Andrew Stephenson MP joined a positive and productive APPGI roundtable to discuss practicalities and priorities for the IRP.
Then, in June, to leverage the expertise of the civil engineering sector, the ICE launched a consultation to assess how the government and industry could accelerate delivery and reduce uncertainty around rail investment.
These efforts culminated in the APPGI and ICE’s very first joint policy paper, Accelerating Delivery of the Integrated Rail Plan. The paper makes several recommendations to optimise decision-making and delivery for all major rail projects, including the development of a national transport strategy for England.
The paper enjoyed a successful launch at Central Hall in Westminster in October 2022, with now-rail minister Huw Merriman MP among contributors to a lively panel discussion.
The paper has gained traction with members and ministers alike, and we’ll be building on its success in 2023.
Influencing infrastructure policy in central government
Lords Select Committees – specially appointed groups of members of the House of Lords – conduct inquiries to help inform government activity.
Contributing evidence to these inquiries offers a rare opportunity to influence public policymaking at the highest level.
In December, Jonathan Spruce, ICE trustee for policy and external affairs, contributed evidence to the Built Environment Committee inquiry on infrastructure policymaking and implementation in central government.
This inquiry considers how central government defines, delivers, and supervises infrastructure in the UK.
Contributing ICE’s insights into policymaking will be instrumental in achieving our vision of a world that maximises the use of infrastructure systems to support sustainable outcomes.
And in case you missed it…
…here are some other public affairs highlights and successes from 2022.
New faces in the APPGI
The APPGI this year welcomed Baroness Blake of Leeds CBE as an officer, and James Grundy MP and Lord Haselhurst as members.
Industry briefings are an opportunity for the APPGI and ICE to hear from and quiz senior industry voices on the latest infrastructure issues and innovations. This year, we heard from:
- National Grid’s Joseph Northwood on their work to future-proof London’s power supply and help meet the massive challenge of scaling up the UK’s offshore wind capacity.
- Karen Wheeler from Nuclear Waste Services on efforts to deliver a long-term solution for nuclear waste disposal.
- Angel Trains CEO Malcolm Brown on how private investment can unlock the potential of the UK’s rail network.
- Steven Vallender from National Grid Gas on the role their National Transmission System (NTS) can play in decarbonising the UK’s energy network.
2022’s Conservative and Labour Party Conferences provided a valuable opportunity to gauge both the current and aspiring governments’ visions for infrastructure in the coming years. Our comments:
- Five key infrastructure takeaways from the 2022 Labour Party Conference.
- The Conservative Party has pledged 'growth, growth and growth', but where does infrastructure fit in?
With traffic through Whitehall seemingly more predictable, at least for now, our attention turns to 2023 and our priorities for working with Rishi Sunak’s new government.
Andrew Jones believes that the chancellor’s Autumn Statement set an optimistic direction for the rest of this parliament, with a “complex and cleverly crafted” catalogue of measures to stabilise markets, protect capital spending, and offer some long-term certainty.
ICE is now keen to see quick action on net zero, more detail on the IRP’s next steps, and sustained momentum on efficient and strategic infrastructure implementation.
We look forward to working with the government in the coming months to ensure the UK’s infrastructure meets our economic, social, and environmental goals.
Find out more
Read more about the ICE’s policy and advocacy work, view our latest policy insights and advice, and get in touch with the policy team.