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Chancellor reiterates that deliverability of infrastructure proposals is a key priority

08 October 2020

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak was quizzed on infrastructure and other Spending Review priorities at an ICE hosted event this week.

Chancellor reiterates that deliverability of infrastructure proposals is a key priority
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (left) with Chris Richards, ICE director of policy (right).

A return on investment, addressing the nation's priorities and deliverability are set to be the key factors that determine future infrastructure investment by the UK government, says Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.

Sunak was speaking at an ICE-hosted, hybrid virtual and in-person event this week at One Great George Street.

The meeting also gave ICE’s policy director, Chris Richards, the opportunity to highlight to the chancellor the importance of improving infrastructure delivery as part of the upcoming Spending Review.

The event was an ‘In Conversation’ session run by the Enterprise Forum, in partnership with ICE, as part of this year's Conservative Party Conference.

Putting questions to the chancellor in front of an online audience of several hundred attendees was Enterprise Forum chair, Andrew Cumpsty.

Rishi Sunak at ICE
Left to right: Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt; ICE President Ed McCann; UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak; APPGI chair Andrew Jones.

Infrastructure investment

Kicking off the conversation, the chancellor was asked how he weighed up decisions on infrastructure investment and what were the trade-offs or questions that weigh the most on his mind.

In his response, he highlighted the work that the government has been doing over recent months to review the ‘Green Book’, which is used by departments to appraise proposed investment.

He said that the key priority at the moment was to look at the deliverability of various infrastructure proposals.

He talked about ‘Project Speed’, set up by the government to identify how to improve the delivery of projects.

While the discussion covered a wide range of topics, from the government’s economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the housing market, plans for freeports in the UK and the future of the UK’s aviation sector, many of the questions also highlighted the vital role infrastructure plays in the UK economy.

He pointed out that while major projects like HS2 can take many years to come to fruition, there is a lot that can be done quickly at a local level that will make a real difference to local economies and people who live in those communities.

Net zero commitment

Sunak was also asked how the government intends to support the investment in innovation needed to stimulate the economic recovery and ensure that the UK meets its commitments to achieve net-zero by 2050.

Specifically, how the government can ensure that regulators are provided with clear policy direction to enable the private investment needed to meet this commitment.

Earlier this year, the ICE published its own paper looking at how the defined regulatory periods governing utilities can be made more flexible and strategic in order to effectively plan and deliver the UK’s core economic infrastructure networks.

The chancellor also confirmed that the long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy would be published later this year, either alongside the Comprehensive Spending Review or as a separate announcement.

Last month, the ICE published its submission to the Treasury’s CSR, which you can read here.

Follow ICE’s work in the lead-up to the Comprehensive Spending Review by reading our rolling news update.

  • Vanessa Furey, head of external affairs at Institution of Civil Engineers