The importance of finding alternative methods of funding for nationally significant infrastructure projects was a recurring message at the ICE Conservative Party conference reception in Manchester last week.
The event, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI), saw politicians, engineers, built environment professionals and industry associations come together to discuss the vital role of engineering in building a low carbon economy for the future.
Opening the event, ConstructionSkills chief executive Mark Farrar set the agenda, saying that continued investment in infrastructure was critical. He introduced Conservative MP Peter Luff, who began his address by claiming Brunel as his hero.
Luff expressed concern that there was too much focus within the Conservative party on manufacturing, rather that construction and engineering.
“Construction is a hugely important sector, making up eight or nine percent of the GDP,” he said. “We must work together to talk up the role of civil engineering in the sector. Engineering skills are important and it is vital we continue to invest in them.”
He said the big question was how we were going to find the money to fund nationally significant infrastructure projects. He praised the ICE and the Construction Industry Council (CIC) for their work to promote alternative methods of funding such as a national infrastructure investment bank.
He also expressed a hope that nuclear energy would be brought back on the agenda for future governments. “We need endless reiteration of the importance of nuclear energy in the UK.”
Shadow transport minister Stephen Hammond also spoke about the importance of infrastructure development for society, saying that there was a real need to identify the infrastructure needs of the country. He stressed that to
“power our way out of the recession” we need to be putting in the work and investment now.
He highlighted the significance of major projects such as Crossrail and High Speed Rail, confirming Conservative support for both projects. “High Speed Rail is hugely important and we remain committed to that,” he said.
The reception was organised by ICE and supported by the CIC and Construction Skills.