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ICE hosts fringe meetings at the major party conferences

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) stepped up its political activity last month by organising fringe events at all three party conferences.

The events were held jointly with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and focused on infrastructure security and resilience.

They enabled engineers and architects to engage closely with key political figures on issues like terrorism and flooding.

The three events were well-attended and featured a number of high-profile speakers – including Labour MP Keith Vaz, Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhn, and and Conservative peer Baroness Neville-Jones.

Other speakers included engineers and architects, emergency planners, representatives of the Association of British Insurers, and London Assembly Members.

ICE Vice President Richard Coackley, who chaired the event at the Labour Party conference, said: "It is vital that we in the engineering community engage with government to ensure the UK is prepared for potentially disastrous events such as terrorism or flooding.

"It is encouraging to hear MPs such as Keith Vaz urging engineers to take the arguments to government and assuring us that our voices will be heard.

"Professional engineers stand ready to work with government at all levels in order to ensure that critical infrastructure – and the population of the UK – receive the best possible protection against extreme events."

The guest speakers and Q&A sessions at all three events explored how critical infrastructure can be best defended from a variety of threats. These include terrorist attacks, major transport accidents, extreme weather events, and pandemic influenza.

They also looked at how to reduce reliance on centralised services. These are issues on which ICE has made strong representations. It has recently published calls for action in recent reports, such as Flooding: Engineering Resilience launched in June this year alongside the Pitt Review.

Vaz said that he wanted an inquiry into the resilience of critical infrastructure, while Baroness Neville-Jones said that the Conservatives would be committed to a coordinated approach to critical infrastructure under a single government body, with a minister to be present at any discussions affecting the UK’s infrastructure portfolio.

RIBA head of public affairs Anna Scott-Marshall said: "We were very encouraged by what we heard in the debates at each party conference. It is clear that the government needs to give architects, engineers and other built environment professionals guidance to then go and build – in creative solutions to adapt to flooding and terrorist attacks."

ICE’s briefing sheet on security and resilience can be downloaded from here: http://www.ice.org.uk/knowledge/Policy_statements.asp

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