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ICE recommendations on Integrated Rail Plan reinforced by peers in Lords debate

20 December 2021

Rounding up the latest policy and political engagement activities from ICE.

ICE recommendations on Integrated Rail Plan reinforced by peers in Lords debate

What happened

… in Westminster

Who | Lord Horam (Con) and Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Lib Dem)

What did they say? | Lord Horam: “The broad statement of the Institute [sic] of Civil Engineers about this being a move in the right direction is correct. But it also says that in the next 12 months there should be a detailed analysis and working out of what should happen. I hope that the minister will commit the government to doing that. It is essential that we now get a move on.”

“But if one wants an objective view, the Institute [sic] of Civil Engineers had it just about right when it said it was “a step in the right direction”.”

Lord Wallace: “This is neither integrated nor really a plan. I wish to correct the noble Lord, Lord Horam; the Institution of Civil Engineers actually said that this was “at best … a step in the right direction.””

When | Lords Short Debate on 16 December – How will the Integrated Rail Plan will deliver the capacity and regional connectivity sought for the Northern Powerhouse area.

Why this matters?

One of ICE’s functions is to provide independent policy expertise to parliamentarians from all parties.

This short debate allowed peers to outline concerns and opportunities to government ministers following the recent publication of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).

Peers drew on ICE's comments and briefings on the IRP and our call for a delivery plan in the next 12 months.

Accelerating the delivery of infrastructure interventions will be a central topic of debate in 2022. ICE will support policy and decision-makers across the political divide with insight and principles from across the world.

From the past 3 months

ICE gives evidence on energy policy to UK Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Who | ICE’s Director of Policy, Chris Richards, gave oral evidence to the UK Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee’s inquiry into the government’s amendments to the Energy National Policy Statements (NPSs).

These seek to translate the government’s Energy White Paper – its long-term strategic vision for the energy system, consistent with net-zero emissions by 2050 - into its infrastructure and planning policies.

What did they say| Following ICE’s written submission to the inquiry, Richards told MPs: “Whereas historically we have focused on developing infrastructure on a sector-by-sector basis, there is now a recognition that we need to start thinking about the wider infrastructure system.

“We need to start moving away from having single NPSs and towards having an overarching and coherent national infrastructure policy statement.”

When | UK BEIS Select Committee oral evidence session on Energy NPSs on 7 December 2021

Why this matters?

ICE was one of only a handful of organisations invited to give oral evidence to the high-profile BEIS select committee as part of its inquiry into the revised Energy NPSs.

The NPSs are important because they set out the UK government’s policy for the delivery of energy infrastructure and provide the legal framework for planning decisions in key energy policy areas – such as fossil fuels, renewables, gas supply and gas and oil pipelines, electricity networks and nuclear.

The NPSs must receive parliamentary approval before new major energy infrastructure can be delivered, therefore select committee scrutiny of this issue is crucial.

Richards reinforced ICE’s call for government to move away from sector-specific NPSs and towards one single NPS for infrastructure.

The other witness in the session, James Richardson of the National Infrastructure Commission, agreed with Richards on the importance of taking a more consistent approach to bring coherence and clarity.

Richards also highlighted ICE’s global membership, and how drawing on that expertise can help the UK learn lessons from other countries on speeding up infrastructure decision-making and delivery.

ICE informs Lords debate on National Infrastructure Commission’s baseline report

Who |Civil engineer and officer of ICE’s APPG Infrastructure, the Rt Hon Lord Berkeley OBE (pictured below)

What did they say? | “One of the most interesting things which has come out of a briefing from the Institution of Civil Engineers is that only 10% of British adults think that the right conditions are in place for infrastructure to transition to net zero - 10% is not very good. Only 31% of British adults think that the government have a plan for net zero; they should be worried about that, and perhaps the Minister will have views on it.”

When | Lords Grand Committee debate on 2 December – ‘To ask Her Majesty’s government what plans they have to address the concerns in the report by the National Infrastructure Commission, The Second National Infrastructure Assessment: Baseline Report, published in November.’

Why this matters?

One of ICE’s core functions is to provide independent policy expertise to parliamentarians from all parties.

A Lords debate on both the National Infrastructure Commission’s recent baseline assessment of the current state of UK infrastructure plus ICE’s own analysis of the report, helps to raise the profile of the important work of the NIC, encourage parliamentary engagement in the process for the next National Infrastructure Assessment expected in 2023 and keep long-term infrastructure planning issues high on the political agenda.

NIC and BEIS meet ICE policy calls on climate change and new nuclear

Who |National Infrastructure Commission; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

Sir John Armitt and Kwasi Kwarteng
Sir John Armitt (left), chairman of the UK's National Infrastructure Commission , and Kwasi Kwarteng MP (right), Secretary of State at the Department for BEIS

What did they say? | The independent UK National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have recently met ICE policy calls – on the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions and making assets resilient to climate change and how we finance new nuclear, respectively.

When | BEIS on 26 October; NIC on 15 November

Why this matters?

Influencing the NIC’s new baseline assessment of the current state of UK infrastructure matters because the report kick-starts the process for the next National Infrastructure Assessment, expected in 2023. By helping to set the direction of travel now, ICE can help improve the environment for long-term infrastructure planning.

By setting out a new funding model to attract a wider range of investment into new nuclear - as supported by ICE - and avoiding scope creep, the UK government can help cut costs when it comes to financing projects, reducing the burden on the taxpayer and offering better value for money.

Who | Helen Whately, Exchequer Secretary, HM Treasury.

Helen Whately
Helen Whately MP, UK minister for infrastructure.

What did they say? | The new UK minister for infrastructure outlined her priorities to industry leaders, following the Spending Review and COP26.

When | ICE Presidential Breakfast, 17 November 2021

Why this matters?

Helen Whately, the UK minister responsible for delivering key elements of infrastructure policy, spoke at an ICE event to hear directly from experts across the sector, in one of her first outings in the role since being appointed. This follows her predecessor Jesse Norman having spoken at ICE's Presidential Breakfast in July.

Who | HM Treasury, Transport Committee, and Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee.

huw merriman and clive betts
Huw Merriman (left) and Clive Betts (right), chairs of the Transport and HCLG Committees, respectively.

What did they say? | The Treasury met ICE calls to include net-zero in the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC’s) remit.

Plus three separate Select Committee reports - two from the Transport Committee and one from the HCLG Committee – referenced ICE policy calls.

  • On net zero: 'Institution of Civil Engineers fellow Jonathan Spruce explained that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, “priorities will change … it is how you might accelerate certain things, like active travel, to help achieve your net zero ambitions. Just because a strategy is set does not mean that the programme of delivery should be set”.'
  • On skills: 'Institution of Civil Engineers fellow Jonathan Spruce explained that because the UK did not have a long-term plan for electrification of the rail network, skills "disappeared from this country" and as a consequence "restarting that programme was really difficult". He added that an infrastructure "needs assessment" will be key to industry for "getting people of all shapes, sizes, genders and ethnicity ready to deliver the infrastructure we need to deliver a net carbon future".'
  • On smart motorways: 'Many informed witnesses agreed with the government that the part-time use of the hard shoulder is confusing and that a consistent environment would be beneficial.'

When | Spending Review on 27 October; Transport Committee on 29 September and 2 November; HCLG Committee on 29 October

Why this matters?

Infrastructure has a key role in delivering net zero. In making it central to the NIC’s work - as recommended by ICE earlier this year – the government is taking an important step to reduce the gap between its own ambitious climate policies and the realistic actions needed to achieve them.

By endorsing ICE’s view that subnational leaders have a critical role to play in reaching net-zero, the HCLG Committee’s report will help to focus attention on what subnational authorities can do to help the UK achieve its 2050 net-zero target.

The Transport Committee agreed with ICE on the safety benefits of a more consistent environment for smart motorways, and the need to adapt to uncertainty caused by the pandemic. This support from policymakers on how we can make our transport networks fit for the future is important, given the vital role that transport plays in enabling prosperity.

Who | Rachel Maclean, former UK Transport Minister

rachel maclean
Rachel Maclean, former Transport Minister

What did they say? | “I noted ICE’s discussion paper with interest, in particular its observations that high quality public transport has a key role to play in reducing emissions, improving air quality and tackling congestion.”

When | Written Parliamentary Question, 15 September 2021

Why this matters | The then-transport minister supported ICE’s calls for an urgent debate on public transport funding post-pandemic.

  • Joanna Gonet, lead public affairs manager at ICE