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UK Labour MP questions government on ICE 'levelling up’ policy position statement

03 March 2023

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

UK Labour MP questions government on ICE 'levelling up’ policy position statement
Steve McCabe MP, UK Labour MP for Selly Oak.

UK Labour MP Steve McCabe submitted a written parliamentary question on ICE’s levelling up policy position statement.

Addressing the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, (DLUHC), McCabe referred to the ICE’s call to align levelling up outcomes with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What did he say?

McCabe asked:

"...with reference to the Institution of Civil Engineers' policy position statement entitled Defining the outcomes from levelling up, published on 16 June 2022, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the recommendation that the levelling up missions should be aligned with the UN Sustainable Goals?"

The response stated:

“The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is designed to establish the framework for missions, not the content of missions themselves.

“The framework provides ample opportunity to scrutinise the substance of missions against a range of Government policies including the Sustainable Development Goals.”


McCabe tabled his question on 21 February 2023. DLUHC minister Dehenna Davison MP responded on 28 February 2023.

Why this matters

The ICE provides independent policy insight and advice to parliamentarians from all parties on a wide range of infrastructure issues.

As part of our policy programme last year, the ICE produced a policy position statement on levelling up. Steve McCabe MP referenced one of our recommendations:

Where possible, the levelling up missions should be aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

There is clear synergy between the SDGs and the outcomes from levelling up. This includes job creation, economic activity, environmental protection, and societal benefits.

The UK government has already fully embedded the SDGs in each department’s activities. As the levelling up missions become similarly embedded, it seems natural to draw on existing evidence and processes to measure progress.

The government has responded to this question by stating that the missions are a framework, not content. When content does inform the missions, the ICE will aim to influence this process.

Written questions and answers are an important feature of parliamentary business, allowing backbench MPs to scrutinise government thinking and legislation. This question raises awareness among DLUHC decision makers of the ICE’s policy position on one of the government’s flagship infrastructure policies.

ICE kicks off new Enabling Better Infrastructure ‘Country Talks’ webinar series

Mr Ricky Lau
Attendees heard how the EBI principles are helping Hong Kong build for future generations. Image credit: HKDB

Ricky Lau joined the ICE to discuss how the Enabling Better Infrastructure (EBI) principles have shaped strategic infrastructure policy in Hong Kong.

The discussion was the first of a new ‘Country Talks’ webinar series, which invites experts to highlight the practical use of EBI guidance in a changing world.

Ricky Lau is the ICE’s representative for Hong Kong. As permanent secretary for development (works) at the Hong Kong Development Bureau (HKDB), he is responsible for overseeing the implementation and management of infrastructure.

What did they say?

Lau shared an update on Hong Kong’s infrastructure strategy since 2019, when the Development Bureau first aligned the strategy with the EBI principles.

After three years of Covid, he explained, Hong Kong is returning to normalcy and reconnecting with the world.

The presentation affirmed the importance of infrastructure, land, and housing to Hong Kong’s economic success.

Lau discussed opportunities to boost the city’s construction output in the coming decades and meet challenges including the cost of construction and Hong Kong’s ageing labour force.

In the context of a huge uplift in development, Lau also emphasised the importance of sustainability. In line with global ambitions, Hong Kong aspires to be carbon neutral by 2050 and to reduce emissions by 50% by 2035.

A discussion session followed the presentation.


The webinar took place on Tuesday 21 February.

Why this matters

The EBI programme is building a worldwide network of global infrastructure leaders and creating a knowledge hub for sharing international best practice and insight.

The new Country Talks webinar series is one of many ways EBI is bringing strategic infrastructure planning and prioritisation to the forefront of international policymaking discourse.

We’re entering a period of significant challenges that demand a far higher level of investment in economic infrastructure worldwide.

Hong Kong’s infrastructure systems rank consistently highly worldwide. But the city is feeling global challenges quite acutely. At present, it is the most expensive place in Asia to develop.

The summarising principle of Lau’s presentation was about building a better world for future generations.

Hong Kong’s drive to address economic, environmental, and social challenges through infrastructure is hugely ambitious, and has the potential to provide a world-class example of EBI principles in action.

UK Labour peer references ICE policy position statement during ‘levelling up’ debate

baroness hayman portrait
Baroness Hayman, Labour Lords Shadow Spokesperson for Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Labour’s shadow spokesperson for levelling up has referenced an ICE policy position statement during a House of Lords debate on levelling up.

Discussing Amendment 7 to the Bill, Baroness Hayman emphasised the needs for detailed metrics for measuring progress on levelling up.

What did she say?

Baroness Hayman criticised the government on existing metrics, saying more needed to be done.

“I drew the committee’s attention to my concerns about metrics on transport in our last debate, but there are also wider concerns about the metrics that the government have developed.

“For example, the Institution of Civil Engineers has said that the more detailed metrics for measuring progress on levelling up should be geared towards local outcomes in areas such as skills training, higher life expectancy, and pride of place.

“These are central missions that will need to happen if they are to be achieved.”

“In general, more weight should be attached to the whole-life benefits of projects and programmes and the role of improved interconnectivity through enhanced infrastructure investment, instead of fixating on achieving the lowest capital cost in delivery.

“This is to ensure that there is sufficient value for money for households who are under significant pressure due to increasing inflation and living costs.”


The Baroness made the comments on 22 February 2023 during a House of Lords committee debate on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

Why this matters

The ICE provides independent policy insight and advice to parliamentarians from all parties on a wide range of infrastructure issues.

As part of our policy programme last year, the ICE produced a policy position statement on levelling up. Baroness Hayman referenced two of our recommendations:

  • Metrics for measuring progress on levelling up should be geared towards local outcomes.
  • Local needs assessments are required to achieve optimum outcomes.

These recommendations have now been put to the government for consideration.

It’s also significant that these comments have come from a Labour shadow government minister. As the official opposition, Labour has a chance to form a government after the next general election.

If Labour does form a government, the ICE’s recommendations will be at the heart of their levelling up strategy.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt: engineering an 'essential part of our British economic success'

jeremy hunt at appgi reception
Parliamentarians and industry leaders joined the ICE for the APPGI reception.

UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt emphasised the importance of infrastructure to the UK government’s agenda at a special event at the ICE HQ this week.

Parliamentarians and industry leaders joined the ICE on Monday for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Infrastructure (APPGI) 2023 reception.

What did he say?

Echoing the vision for long-term prosperity he outlined in a speech late last month, the chancellor emphasised four pillars: ‘education’, ‘enterprise’, ‘employment’, and ‘everywhere’.

He stressed the importance of tackling productivity issues, focusing on digital, energy, and transport.

“We have some of the most innovative, exciting, clever companies in the world, but it doesn't reflect in our GDP,” the chancellor said.

But he believes the UK has “turned a corner”.

“People in this room really are the solution to this problem,” he said. “You are an absolutely essential part of our British economic success.”


The APPGI reception, the year ahead for infrastructure, took place on Monday 6 February 2023.

Why this matters

The ICE has supported the APPGI since its creation in November 2008. Comprising MPs and peers from across the political spectrum, the APPGI works to boost political recognition of economic infrastructure in the UK.

In recent years, the APPGI has helped bring the importance of infrastructure to the forefront of the national and political conversation.

The chancellor of the exchequer is responsible for the UK government’s infrastructure strategy, and his attendance at ICE HQ strongly indicates infrastructure’s importance to the government’s growth ambitions.

ICE director general Dr Janet Young told attendees:

“Infrastructure is crucial to the government’s 'levelling up’ ambitions. It will be instrumental in the transition to net zero.

“Indeed, the people who plan and deliver our infrastructure are doing no less than addressing the key issues of our time.

“We look forward to working with policymakers to deliver better connections, resilience, and value for society.”

Find out more about the APPGI

ICE organises parliamentary visit to HS2 Curzon Street Station site

parliamentarians and ICE staff at Curzon Street Station site
Visiting parliamentarians and ICE staff enjoyed a tour of the Curzon Street Station site. Image credit: HS2

Members of Parliament visited the site of HS2’s Curzon Street Station in Birmingham for a tour of the premises and to hear from people working on the project.

The ICE organised the visit as part of its work with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI).

Among the visitors was Ruth Cadbury MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Women in Transport.

What did they say?

Cadbury said: "Women only make up a fraction of the transport and construction workforce, from railway building to bus driving.

"But today’s trip to Curzon Street was a reminder of the invaluable role women play in delivering major infrastructure projects and the pride they feel doing so.

"We need to level the playing field and give women equal opportunity to thrive in transport and adjacent fields. This, in turn, will help close the skills gap that threatens to hold the sector back."

Andrew Jones MP, chair of the APPGI, said: "Delivering infrastructure is critical to making progress on the economic, social, and environmental goals of our country.

"Seeing projects being delivered on site visits like this, with the ICE and other key stakeholders, brings our messages to life.

"We’re grateful to HS2 for showing us their progress, and how different people contribute to a large-scale infrastructure project like this. It’s great to see work in action."


The visit took place on Friday 20 January 2023.

Why this matters

The APPGI aims to bring infrastructure to the forefront of UK politics. Over the past decade, political recognition of infrastructure has grown significantly, and the ICE’s work with the APPGI is one of our key policy outputs.

The ICE’s 2022 refreshed HS2 insight paper identified the need for increased capacity on Britain’s rail network. The Department for Transport believes that HS2 will contribute towards this, as well as levelling up and decarbonisation targets.

Giving ministers first-hand experience of large-scale infrastructure projects brings APPGI’s messages to life and reinforces the importance of civil engineering to society.

UK government welcomes the ICE’s engagement on Levelling Up White Paper

wind turbine parts
The ICE recommends clearer alignment between levelling up and net zero. Image credit: iStock

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) spokesperson has responded after Stephen Hammond MP cited an ICE policy position statement in a written question to parliament.

Referencing Defining the outcomes from levelling up, published on 16 June 2022, Hammond pointed to the ICE’s recommendation that “there should be clearer alignment between levelling up and net zero”.

The Conservative MP for Wimbledon asked whether levelling up secretary Michael Gove would assess the potential implications for the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently progressing through parliament.

What did they say?

Lucy Frazer, minister of state for housing and planning, responded:

"We welcome the Institution of Civil Engineers engagement on these two vital government priorities.

"As highlighted in the Levelling Up White Paper, the largest industrial emitting sectors are in some of the least prosperous areas in the UK, where investment in the transition to net zero can potentially yield significant benefits for businesses and communities.

"We are keen to harness the opportunity that the net zero transition presents to level up the UK. That is why we have established a Green Jobs Delivery Group in collaboration with industry and energy leaders to support the delivery of 480,000 new green jobs by 2030.

"The group will help ensure the UK has the skilled workforce it needs to build clean industries, whilst making sure that workers, businesses, and local areas are supported throughout the transition.

"The government also looks forward to responding to the Skidmore Review, which sets out recommendations on the interaction between net zero, levelling up, and local leadership."


Stephen Hammond MP tabled the question on Thursday 12 January. Lucy Frazer MP responded on Friday 20 January 2023.

Why this matters

Chief among the ICE’s charitable objectives is operating for the benefit of society. This includes influencing government discussion and policymaking at the highest levels.

Levelling up – or boosting economic growth across the whole country – is a major UK government priority. And with the recent publication of the Skidmore net zero review, decarbonisation is at the heart of the national conversation.

But it’s important to get this right. There are many competing priorities for infrastructure investment, and projects need to embed sustainable outcomes for society from the outset.

The ICE policy team provides independent advice to parliamentarians across all parties. This activity reinforces to policymakers the best strategic uses for infrastructure, ensuring that government policy maximises the use of infrastructure to support sustainable outcomes.

  • Ben Gosling, speechwriter and policy content manager at ICE
  • Duncan Kenyon, public affairs manager at ICE