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'Pragmatic migration' call from ICE

Whichever party wins the 2015 General Election should take a “pragmatic approach” to migration, recognising that engineering is a global industry, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has said.

At the launch of its Manifesto for Infrastructure today, the ICE called on the next Government to “place infrastructure at the heart of economic plans with priority for investment” to help “in driving long term economic growth and job creation”.

It warned that failing to make infrastructure a priority, or instead opting for quick electoral wins, could result in “other competing nations taking our edge and the UK’s resilience diminishing”.

The Institution also called for “a pragmatic approach to migration… recognising that engineering is a global industry and [that] the UK must learn from other countries’ experience and expertise”.

It added: “UK universities have a strong global reputation and benefit from the recruitment of talented overseas students. These students are a valuable resource to universities and potentially to UK-based employers and it should be made easier for UK employers to recruit them, particularly specialists with postgraduate qualifications.”

In 2013, UK construction contributed £92.4bn in economic output – 6.1% of the total. In Q3 of 2014, 2.1 million jobs were in the construction industry.

The ICE Manifesto recommends 10 key policies:

  1. Create an independent infrastructure body - ideally by restructuring existing Treasury body Infrastructure UK to reduce delay and uncertainty.
  2. Act swiftly and boldly on the Davies Commission recommendations, paving the way for delivery and avoiding further delay in resolving the UK’s aviation hub issues.
  3. Work with local authorities to clear the road maintenance backlog and commit to a planned, preventative maintenance regime – addressing defects on a more long-term ‘value for money’ basis.
  4. ‘Future proof’ new infrastructure by embedding resilience – and the ‘domino effect’ across networks when one system fails – into criteria used to make decisions on which projects go ahead.
  5. Implement energy market reform fully and smoothly with changes kept to a minimum, to entrench cross-party support for electricity decarbonisation.
  6. Commit to a long-term maintenance investment programme for flood risk management.
  7. Accelerate the devolution of transport powers by creating city-region transport authorities responsible for roads and all public transport, supported by a national transport strategy for England.
  8. Commit to increasing the quality – not just the quantity – of apprenticeships so those on schemes achieve a qualification which sets them up for life, and the UK benefits from a pipeline of talent.
  9. Ensure Ofsted rigorously inspects schools’ careers guidance so the range of ‘STEM’ paths available, including vocational and technician roles, are communicated to students.
  10. Establish an Office for Resource Management in Government to entrench a ‘circular economy’ ethos across all departments and promote resource management as a driver of growth.

ICE director general Nick Baveystock said: “Infrastructure is the foundation of all modern societies – it not only boosts GDP and job creation but regenerates communities, connects people and places and equips future generations with desirable skills.

“The benefits of infrastructure investment are now well established across political divides, resulting in some welcome schemes and initiatives and infrastructure rightly positioned high on the political agenda. We are however at a critical time – where the scale of the UK’s needs is large and growing,  public finances remain tight and we are slowly emerging as an attractive market for infrastructure investment – it is vital therefore that we do not lose impetus.

“Whichever party wins the General Election, infrastructure should form a central plank of its economic policy - building on the progress already made and using infrastructure to realise the UK’s full economic potential. Failing to give it a front row seat, or opting for shorter term electoral wins, could lead to other competing nations taking our edge and the UK’s resilience diminishing.

“This is no time for the faint hearted – the next Government must establish a long-term vision for infrastructure and a framework that facilitates cross-party consensus. We need to build the UK’s resilience, rebalance growth, and secure a world class engineering workforce. There are also some tough decisions ahead – not least on the UK’s aviation policy and our future energy mix. But with concerted political commitment, challenges can become opportunities, and we can deliver the infrastructure we need for the 21st Century and beyond.”

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