Andrew Jones MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure, discusses the Groups reconstitution and its panel discussion with Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Minister of State in the Department for Transport.
This week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure held its Annual General Meeting (AGM), and a panel discussion on local and national infrastructure and its priorities and opportunities for the economic recovery from Covid-19.
The subject of our second meeting of the year and the cast list of speakers for it was always likely to attract interest. It did.
I liked the big picture articulated by the transport minister, Chris Heaton-Harris MP. Infrastructure delivery yes, but as one of the levers to achieve big national objectives. Chris talked of decarbonisation to net zero and levelling up.
The other speakers on the panel were Bridget Rosewell, Commissioner at NIC, Andrew Carter, CEO Centre for Cities and Jonathan Spruce, ICE Fellow. The expertise in the meeting was huge and brought different perspectives to the debate.
What's the distinction between local and national transport infrastructure?
The title of the event suggested local and national priorities would be explored. They were. But I must own up - I don’t really see a distinction between the two.
I travel from my home in Harrogate to Westminster on the train; I use a local service then change to a national one. If I drive down, I use a local road and then a national road. Only an enthusiast even thinks about a classification difference. Most people think about getting to their destination, from A to B. Customers/passengers are not modal, and transport planners should not be either.
What issues did the APPGI panel debate?
It was interesting to see some divergence in the topics of the questions between the industry and parliamentary colleagues. The industry asked about reports and approvals, basically some of the government systems for progressing decisions. I sensed that more speed was what the questioners were looking for.
The event took place in the period of purdah before local government elections, so answers had to respect that and they did. It also means that there is a strong expectation for a flurry of announcements in a few weeks’ time.
Colleagues asked about schemes in their areas. MPs are nothing if not consistent. The belief that infrastructure investment will drive economic growth and create opportunity is clearly and widely held.
An excellent question from Philip Davies MP caught that well, asking about a station for Bradford on the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme. Philip is a great champion for his area and highlighted that Bradford is a city of scale and potential, but without the connectivity it needs. The panel agreed; and having taken action on this in a former life and as a former pupil of Bradford Grammar School, I was very interested.
The enthusiasm from the panel, the attendees from both House of Parliament and the industry, showed infrastructure remains at the centre of policy thinking and at the heart of debate. And with the AGM completed, the group can continue, and will remain, shaping that debate.
Just before the second meeting of the APPGI this year we had our AGM. Every all-party parliamentary group has to have an AGM, to confirm officers and then register with the House authorities.
I have been re-elected chair of the group, and was very pleased to continue in the role. Thank you for the support. This group has been making a difference as a voice for infrastructure and its delivery.